Skip to main content

Full text of "A report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns : made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department"

See other formats


* . . 



GPO 1C— C7244-1 



EEC 13 1966 











284 5. 


This beautiful rural Cemetery, formerly the Country Seat of the 
Hamilton Family and embracing- more than three times the extent 
of ground contained in any other Cemetery near Philadelphia, is 
now prepared for interments. 

Citizens generally are invited to visit the grounds and judge for 
themselves of its scenery, convenience and general adaptation to the 
objects to which it has been devoted. The improvements begun 
will be prosecuted to a high state of finish and ornament in respect 
to buildings, gravelled ways, lawn, flowers, shrubbery and trees; 
of the latter it is intended to procure every variety of which the 
climate will admit that will enhance the beauty of the scene. 

Its vicinity to the city, its quiet and seclusion and the security 
afforded to the remains interred there, combine to render it a most 
fit and appropriate spot for burial purposes. 

Of the quality of the soil, &c, the following certificate has been 
furnished to the Managers of the Cemetery by three of the principal 
Undertakers of the City. 

" Having buried in this Cemetery, the undersigned certify that 
the soil is of the best kind for the purpose, being a dry gravel and 
sand. The superintendant will be found prompt and obliging, 
and the beauty of the scenery unsurpassed. 

WM. H. MOORE, No. 181 Arch street, 
WM. HUGHES, No. 102 North Eighth street. 
GEORGE PICKERING, 10th Presbyterian Church." 
Visitors will be shown the grounds by application tcrthe Super- 
intendant, Robert Devine, at the Cemetery on the Darby Road, 
about half a mile from the Market Street Permanent Bridge. 
Omnibuses run from the Exchange several times every hour to 
within a short distance of the gate. 

Application for Lots may be made to the Treasurer at No. 309 
Arch street, above Eighth street. 

Terms.— 50 cents per square foot for lots in perpetuity. For 
single graves $7 50 ; digging graves $2 50 for all sizes 
of the depth of seven feet. 

JACOB LEX, President. 
CHARLES E. LEX, Secretary. 
Wm. Carvill, Gardener on the premises, will supply flowers 
and shrubbery to the owners of lota and thp rmhlir. 














The following chapters from Mr. Chadwick's Report on the 
subject of interments in towns, contain general truths alike inte- 
resting and important on either side of the Atlantic. It is true 
that the evils treated of are less aggravated in a country of more 
recent settlement than in Europe, where they have become in- 
veterate from repetition through successive ages and centuries. 
Yet they have been to some extent felt in the cities of the United 
States, and it will be wise in us to take timely warning and avoid 
the shocking abuses, now difficult of cure, to which the cities of 
the old world have attained. There the reform has been begun 
from dire necessity; forewarned of these evils and governed by 
wisdom, taste, and humanity, let us bury the dead where they 
shall not be an offence to the living, and themselves a source of 
pestilence and mortality. 

The chapters omitted, happily, have little application in the 
United States. Though legislation would be salutary as far as to 
restrain burials within cities after prescribed periods, the establish- 
ment of burial-places under public management, in alliance with 
an established church, would not be consonant to our institutions ; 
and where a family is seldom crowded into a single room, as in 
Europe, the proposed regulation for the immediate removal of 
the dead to a common receptacle, is not felt to be a requisition of 

What is said, therefore, upon these and other evils scarcely 
known here, is comparatively unimportant and not republished. 

The legal opinion of Lord Stowell, now republished, shows how 
limited and precarious is the tenure by which the dead hold their 
last resting-place ; it endures only till their remains are resolved 
into their kindred dust, " when their dust will help to furnish a 


place of repose for other occupants in succession." But who are 
ordinarily the judges when man's remains have so far returned 
to their kindred dust, as thus of right to give place to successive 
occupants? They are those most interested and most tempted 
by cupidity to anticipate this natural process of decay, and the 
investigation recently made by Parliamentary authority, exhibits 
the most shocking details of the systematic displacement, for ages 
past, of old bodies for new occupants, — " Ere the moist flesh hath 
mingled with the dust." 

By the regulation of the modern cemeteries, of a rural cha- 
racter, in this country, this horrid evil is necessarily averted, 
where each purchaser becomes the proprietor, for burial purposes, 
of his own plot; and the preservation of the remains of the 
buried is thus committed to the guardianship of relatives and 
friends, whose sacred regard for them cannot be wounded by the 
temptations of cupidity and crime in others. Here they will be 
placed beyond the reach of poisoning the living by the noxious 
effluvia of decomposition; here the vegetable growths will both 
absorb the miasmata and attract the living to renew upon the 
green sod, and under the shade of trees, the moral influences 
produced by an association with the grave; and here so long as 
the affection of the living shall survive to cherish the memory of 
the dead will even their dust remain a sacred deposit, and its re- 
pose be religiously guarded. 


Sources of information on which the Report is founded, 5 1 - - 7 

Grounds of objection to the admitted necessities of the abolition of intra- 
mural interment examined, 5 1 8 

The evidence as to the innocuousness of emanations from human remains : 

negative evidence, §2 10 

The facts in respect to such alleged innocuousness incompletely stated, 

§3 12 

Positive evidence of the propagation of acute disease from putrid emana- 
tions, § § 5 ar, d 6- ---------15 

Specific disease communicated from human remains — positive instances 

of, }$ 8 and 10 19 

Distinct effects produced by emanations from bodies in a state of decay 
and from bodies in a state of putrefaction, § 10 ... 22 

Summary of the evidence in respect to the sanitary question as to the 

essentially injurious nature of such emanations, &c, § 11 - - 28 

Difficulty of tracing distinctly the specific effects of emanations from 
burial-grounds in crowded towns, amidst complications of other 
emanations, 5 13 29 

Tainting of wells by emanations from burial-grounds, 5 14 - - - 30 

Danger of injurious escapes of putrid emanation': not obviated by deep 
burial, J 21 33 

General conclusions that all interments in churches or in towns are es- 
sentially of an injurious and dangerous tendency, § 23 - - - 36 

Why careful planting requisite for cemeteries, §§ 24 and 25 - - - 36 

Statement of Mr. Wordsworth of the loss of salutary influence by burial 

in towns, J 26 - - - -37 



Effects of careful visible arrangements on the mental associations of the 

population stated, $27 39 

Examples of the influence of cemeteries on the continent, J 28 - - 40 
Sir Christopher Wren's plan for the exclusion of intra-mural burying- - 

places on the rebuilding of the city of London, 5 29 - - - 41 
Practice of the primitive Christians to bury outside cities, § 30 - - 42 
Lord Stowell's exposition of the law of England in respect to the perpe- 
tuities in burial-grounds, $32 47 



To the Right Hon. Sir James Graham, Bart. 

In - compliance with the request which I have had the honour 
to receive from you, that I would examine the evidence on the 
practice of interment, and the means of its improvement, and pre- 
pare for consideration a Report thereon, I now submit the facts 
and conclusions following : — 

It has been remarked, as a defect in the General Report on the 
evidence as to the sanitary condition of the labouring population, 
that it did not comprise any examination of the evidence as to 
the effects produced on the public health, by the practice of inter- 
ring the dead amidst the habitations of the town population. I 
wish here to explain that the omission arose from the subject 
being too great in its extent, and too special in its nature, to allow 
of the completion at that time, of any satisfactory investigation in 
relation to it even if it had not then been under examination by a 
Committee, of _ibe House of Commons, whose Report is now be- 
fore the public. 

To obtain the information on which the following report is 
founded, I have consulted, as extensively as the time allowed and 
my opportunities would permit, ministers of religion who are 
called upon to perform funeral rites in the poorer districts: I 
have made inquiries of persons of the labouring classes, and of 
secretaries and officers of benefit societies and burial clubs, in the 
metropolis and in several provincial towns in the United Kingdom, 
on the practice of interments in relation to those classes, and on 
the alterations and improvements that would be most in accord- 
ance with their feelings: I have questioned persons following the 
occupation of undertakers, and more especially those who are 
chiefly engaged in the interment of the dead of the labouring 
classes, on the improvements which they deem practicable in the 
modes of performing that service: I have consulted foreigners 
resident in the metropolis, on the various modes of interment in 
their own countries : I have examined the chief administrative 
regulations thereon in Germany, France, and the United States : 


and I have consulted several eminent physiologists as to the 
effects produced on the health of the living, by emanations from 
human remains in a state of decomposition. 1 need scarcely 
premise that the moral as well as the physical facts developed in 
the course of this inquiry are often exceedingly loathsome ; but 
general conclusions can only be distinctly made out from the 
various classes of particular facts, and the object being the sug- 
gestion of remedies and preventives, it were obviously as unbe- 
coming to yield to disgusts or to evade the examination and calm 
consideration of these facts, as it would be in the physician or the 
surgeon, in the performance of his duty with the like object, to 
shrink from the investigation of the most offensive manifestations 
of disease. 

§ 1. It appears that the necessity of removing interments from 
the midst of towns is very generally admitted on various conside- 
rations, independently of those founded on the presumed inju- 
rious effects arising from the practice to the public health. I be- 
lieve an alteration of the practice is strongly desired by many 
clergymen of the established church, whose incomes, even with 
the probable compensation for the loss of burial dues, might be 
expected to be diminished by the discontinuance of intra-mural 
interments. Exemptions from a general prohibition of such in- 
terments arc, however, claimed in favour of particular burial- 
grounds, situate within populous districts, of which grounds it is 
stated that they are not over-crowded with bodies, and of which 
it is further alleged that they have not been known, and cannot 
be proved, to be injurious to the public health. 

The statements as to the innocuousness of particular graveyards 
are supported by reference to the general testimony of a number 
of medical witnesses of high professional position, by whom it is 
alleged that the emanations from decomposing human remains do 
not produce specific disease, and, further, that they are not gene- 
rally injurious. The practical consequences of these doctrines 
extend beyond the present question, and are so important in their 
effects on the sanitary economy of all towns, as apparently to re- 
quire that no opportunity should be lost of examining the state- 
ments of facts on which they are founded. 

The medical evidence of this class has generally been given in 
answer to complaints made by the public, of the offensiveness, and 
the danger to health which arises from the practice of dissection 
in schools of anatomy amidst crowded populations. The chief 
fact alleged to prove the innocuousness of emanations from the 
dead is, that professors of anatomy experience no injury from 
them. Thus, Dr. Warren, of Boston, in a paper cited by M. 
Parent Duchatelet, states, that he has been accustomed all his 
life to dissecting-rooms, in which he has been engaged nin-ht and 
day. "It has sometimes happened to me," he observes, " after 
having dissected bodies in a state of putrefaction, to have expe- 
rienced a sort of weakness and the loss of appetite; but the phe- 


nomena were never otherwise than transient. During the year ' 
1829, the weather being excessively hot, decomposition advanced 
with a degree of rapidity such as I have rarely witnessed : at 
that season the emanations became so irritating, that they para- 
lyzed the hands, producing small pustules and an excessive itch- 
ing, and yet my general health was in nowise affected." 

Again, whilst it is stated by M. Duchatelet that students who 
attend the dissecting-rooms are sometimes seriously injured, and 
even killed by pricks and cuts with the instruments of dissection, 
yet it is denied that* they are subject to any illness from the ema- 
nations from the remains " other than a nausea and a dysentery 
for two or three days at the commencement of their studies." 
Fevers the students of medicine are confessedly liable to, but he 
says it is only when they are in attendance on the living patients 
in the fever wards. 

Sir Benjamin Brodie pointed out to me, that from the precau- 
tions taken, by the removal of such portions of the viscera as 
might be in an advanced state of decomposition, and from the 
ventilation of dissecting-rooms being much improved, the emana- 
tions from the bodies dissected are not so great as might be sup- 
posed ; nevertheless, he observes : — 

There is no doubt that there are few persons who during the anatomical 
season are engaged for many hours daily in a dissecting-room for a considera- 
ble time, whose health is not affected in a greater or less degree; and there 
are some whose health suffers considerably. I have known several young 
men who have not been able to prosecute their studies in the dissecting-room 
for more than three or four weeks at a time, without being compelled to leave 
them and go into the country. The great majority, however, do not suffer to 
that extent, nor in such a way as to cause interruption to their studies ; and, 
altogether, the evil is not on a sufficiently large scale to attract much notice, 
even among the students themselves. 

A writer on public health, Dr. Dunglison, maintains that "we 
have no satisfactory proof that malaria ever arises from animal 
putrefaction singly;" and as evidence of this position he adduces 
the alleged fact of the numbers of students who pass through their 
education without injury; yet he admits — 

In stating the opinion that putrefaction singly does not occasion malarious 
disease, we do not mean to affirm that air highly charged with putrid mias- 
mata may not, in some cases, powerfully impress the nervous system so as to 
induce syncope and high nervous disorder; or that, when such miasmata are 
absorbed by the lungs in a concentrated state, they may not excite putrid dis- 
orders, or dispose the frame to unhealthy erysipelatous affections. On the 
contrary, experiment seems to have shown that they are deleterious when in- 
jected ; and cases are detailed in which, when exhaled from the dead body, 
they have excited serious mischief in those exposed to their action. Accord- 
ing to Percy, a Dr. Chambon was required by the Dean of the Faculte de Me- 
dicine of Paris to demonstrate the liver and its appendages before the faculty 
on applying for his license. The decomposition of the subject given him for 
the demonstration was so far advanced, that Chambon drew the attention of the 
Dean to it, but he was required to go on. One of the four candidates, Conon, 
struck by the putrid emanations which escaped from the body as soon as it 
was opened, fainted, was carried home, and died in seventy hours ; another, 
the celebrated Fourcroy, was attacked with a burning exanthematous erup- 
tion; and two others, Laguerenne and Dufresnoy remained a long time 


feeble, and the latter never completely recovered. "As for Chambon," says 
M. Londe, " indignant at the obstinacy of the Dean, he remained firm in Ins 
place, finished his lecture in the midst of the Commissioners, who inundated 
their handkerchiefs with essences, and, doubtless, owed his safety to Ins cere- 
bral excitement, which during the night, after a slight febrile attack, gave oc- 
casion to a profuse cutaneous exhalation." 

An eminent surgeon, who expressed to me his belief that no in- 
jury resulted from emanaiions from decomposing remains, lor he 
had suffered none, mentioned an instance where he had conducted 
the post mortem examination of the corpse of a person of cele- 
brity which was in a dreadful state of decomposition, without sus- 
taining any injury; yet he admitted, as a casual incident which 
did not strike him as militating against the conclusion, that his 
assistant was immediately after taken ill, and had an exanthema- 
tous eruption, and had been compelled to go to the sea side, but 
had not yet recovered. Another surgeon who had lived for many 
years near a churchyard in the metropolis, and had never ob- 
served any effluvia from it, neither did he perceive any effects of 
such emanations at church or anywhere else; yet he admitted 
that his wife perceived the openings of vaults when she went to 
the church to which the graveyard belonged, and after respiring 
the air there, would say, " they have opened a vault," and on in- 
quiry, the fact proved to be so. He admitted also, that formerly 
in the school of anatomy which he attended, pupils were some- 
times attacked with fever, which was called "the dissecting- 
room fever," which, since better regulations were adopted, was 
now unknown. 

§ 2. In proof of the position that the emanations from decom- 
posing remains are not injurious to health at any time, reference 
is commonly made to the statements in the papers of Parent Du- 
chatelet, wherein he cites instances of the exhumation of bodies 
in an advanced stage of decomposition without any injurious con- 
sequences being experienced by the persons engaged in conduct- 
ing them. 

At the conclusion of this inquiry, and whilst engaged in the 
preparation of the report, I was favoured by Dr. Forbes with the 
copy of a report by Dr. V. A. Riecke, of Stuttgart, " On the In- 
fluence of Putrefactive Emanations on the Health of Man," &c.„ 
in which the medical evidence of this class is closely investigated. 
In reference to the statements of Parent Duchatelet on this ques- 
tion, Dr. Riecke observes — 

When Parent Duchatelet appeals to and gives such prominence to the in- 
stance of the disinterments from the churchyard of St. Innocens, and states 
that they took place without any injurious consequences, although at last all 
precautions in the mode of disinterring were thrown aside, and that it occurred 
during the hottest season of the year, and therefore that the putrid emanations 
might be believed to be in their most powerful and injurious state, I would re- 
ply to this by asking the simple question, what occasion was there for the dis- 
interment 1 Parent Duchatelet maintains complete silence on this point ; but 
to me the following notices appear worthy of attention. In the year 1554 
Houlier and Fernel, and in the year 1738, Lemery, Geoffroy, and Hunaud' 
raised many complaints of this churchyard ; and the two first had averted 


that, during the plague, the disease had lingered longest in the neighbour- 
hood of the Cimetiere de la Trinite, and that there the greatest number had 
fallen a sacrifice. In the years 1787 and 1746, the inhabitants of the houses 
round the churchyard of St. Innocens complained loudly of the revolting stench 
to which they were exposed. In the year 1755 the matter again came into 
notice : the inspector who was intrusted with the inquiry, himself saw the 
vapour rising from a large common grave, and convinced himself of the inju- 
rious effects of this vapour on the inhabitants of the neighbouring house.* 
"Often," says the author of a paper which we have before often alluded to, 
" the complexions of the young people who remain in this neighbourhood grow 
pale. Meat sooner becomes putrid there than elsewhere, and many persons 
cannot get accustomed to these houses." In the year 1779, in a cemetery 
which yearly received from 2000 to 3000 corpses, they dug an immense com- 
mon grave near to that part of the cemetery which touches upon the Rue de 
la Lingerie. The grave was 50 feet deep, and made to receive from 1500 to 
1600 bodiesi But in February, 1780, the whole of the cellars in the street 
were no longer fit to use. Candles were extinguished by the air in these cel- 
lars; and those who only approached the apertures were immediately seized 
with the most alarming attacks. The evil was only diminished on the bodies 
being covered with half a foot of lime, and all further interments forbidden. 
But even that must have been found insufficient, as, after some years, the great 
work of disinterring the bodies from this churchyard was determined upon. 
This undertaking, according to Thouret's report, was carried on from Decem- 
ber 1785, to May, 1786; from December, 1786, to February, 1787; and in 
August and October of the same year; and it is not unimportant to quote this 
passage, as it clearly shows how little correct Parent Duchatelet was in his 
general statement, that those disinterments took place in the hottest seasons 
of the year. It is very clear that it was exactly the coldest seasons of the 
year which were chosen for the work ; and though in the year 1787 there 
occurs the exception of the work having been again begun in August, I think 
it may be assumed that the weather of this month was unusually cold, and it 
was therefore thought the work might be carried on without injurious effects. 
It does not, however, appear to have been considered safe to continue the work 
at that season, since the report goes on to state that the operations were again 
discontinued in September. 

Against those statements of Parent Duchatelet, as to the innocuousness of 
the frequent disinterments in Pere La Chaise, statements which are supported 
by the testimony of Orfila and Ollivier, in regard to their experience of disin- 
terments, I would here place positive facts, which are not to be rejected. 
"I," also remarks Duvergie, "have undertaken judicial disinterments, and 
must declare that, during one of these disinterments, at which M. Piedagnel 
was present with me, we were attacked with an illness, although it was con- 
ducted under the shade of a tent, through which there was passing a strong 
current of wind, and although we used chloride of lime in abundance. M. 
Piedagnel was confined to his room for six weeks." Apparently, Duvergie is 
not far wrong when he states his opinion that Orfila had allowed himself to be 


* According to a memoir on this subject, read at the Royal Academy of Sciences, 
by M. Cadet de Vaux, in the year 1781, " Le mephetisme qui s'etoit degage d'une 
des fosses voisines du cimetiere, avoit infecte loutes les caves ; on comparait aux 
poisons les plus subtils, a ceux dont les sauvages impregnant leur Heches meurtri- 
eres, la terrible activite de cctte emanation. Les murs baignes dc l'humidite dont 
elles les penetroit, pouvoit communiquer, disoit on par le seul attoucbement les ac- 
eidens les plus redoutable." Sec Memoires de la Soeiete Royale de Medecine, 
torn, viii., p. 212; also Anuales de Chimie, torn. v. p. 158. As an instance of the 
state of the cellars around the graveyard, it is stated, that a workman being en- 
gaged in one of them put his hand on the wet wall. He was warned that the 
moisture on the walls was poisonous, and was requested to wash the hand in 
vinegar. He merely dried his hand on his apron; at the end of three days the 
whole arm became numb, then the hand and lower arm swelled with great pain, 
blisters came out on the skin, and the epidermis came off. 


misled by his praiseworthy zeal for the more general recognition of the use of 
disinterments for judicial purposes, to understate the dangers attending them, 
as doubtless he had used all the precautions during the disinterments which 
such researches demand; and to these precautions (which Orfila himself re- 
commended) may be attributed the few injurious effects of these disinterments. 
It, however, deserves mentioning, that, if Orfila did undertake disinterments 
during the heat of summer, it must have been only very rarely ; at least, 
amongst the numerous special cases which he gives, we find only two which 
took place in July or August ; most of the cases occurred in the coldest season 
of the year. I cannot refrain from giving, also, the information which Four- 
croy gained from the grave-diggers of the churchyard of St. Innocens. Ge- 
nerally they did not seem to rate the danger of displacing the corpses very 
high: they remarked, however, that some days after the disinterment of the 
corpses the abdomen would swell, owing to the great development of gas; 
and that, if an opening forced itself at the navel, or anywhere in the region 
of the belly, there issued forth the most horribly smelling liquid, and a me- 
phitic gas; and of the latter they had the greatest fear, as it produced sudden 
insensibility and faintings. Fourcroy wished much to make further researches 
into the nature of this gas, but he could not find any grave-digger who could 
be induced by an offered reward to assist him by finding a body which was in 
a fit state to produce the gas. They stated, that, at a certain distance, this 
gas only produced a slight giddiness, a feeling of nausea, languor and debility. 
These attacks lasted several hours, and were followed by loss of appetite, 
weakness, and trembling. " Is it not very probable," says Fourcroy, " that a 
poison so terrible that, when in a concentrated state, it produced sudden 
death, should, even when diluted and diffused through the atmosphere, still 
possess a power sufficient to produce depression of the nervous energy and an 
entire disorder of their functions 1 Let any one witness the terror of these 
grave-diggers, and also see the cadaverous appearance of the greatest number, 
and all the other signs of the influence of a slow poison, and they will no 
longer doubt of the dangerous effects of the air from churchyard's on the 
inmates of neighbouring houses." 

After having strenuously asserted the general innocuousness 
of such emanations, and the absence of foundation for the com- 
plaints against the anatomical schools, Parent Duchatelet con- 
cludes by an admission of their offensiveness, and a recommen- 
dation in the following terms : — 

"Instead of retaining the 'debris' of dissection near the theatres of anatomy, 
it would certainly be better to remove them every day: but, as that is often 
impracticable, there ought, on a good system of ' assainissement,' to be consi- 
dered the mode of retaining them without incurring the risk of suftcrin"- from 
their infection." 

After describing the mode of removing the "debris," he con- 
cludes — 

" Thus will this part of the work be freed from the inconveniences which 
accompanied and formed one of the widest sources of ' infection,' and of the 
disgust which were complained of in the theatres of anatomy." 

§ 3. The statements of M. Duchatelet respecting the innocu- 
ousness of emanations from decomposing animal and vegetable 
remains, observed by him at the chantiers d'equarissage, or recep- 
tacle for dead horses, and the depots dc vidange, or receptacle of 
night soil, &c, at Montfaucon, near Paris, are cited in this country, 
and on the continent, as leading evidence to sustain the general 
doctrine; but as it is with his statements of the direct effects of 
the emanations from the graveyards, so it is with relation to his 


statements as to the effects of similar emanations on the health 
of the population ; the facts appear to have been imperfectly ob- 
served by him even in his own field of observation. In the 
Medical Review, conducted by Dr. Forbes, reference is made 
to the accounts given by Caillard of the epidemic which occurred 
in the vicinity of the Canal de l'Ourcq, near Paris, in 1810 and 
subsequent years : — 

In the route from Paris to Pantin (says he), exposed on the one side to the 
miasmatic emanations of the canal, and on the other to the putrid effluvia of 
the voiries, the diseases were numerous; almost all serious and obstinate. 
This disastrous effect of the union of putrid effluvia with marsh miasmata, was 
especially evident in one part of this route, termed the Petit Pont hamlet, in- 
habited by a currier and a gut-spinner, the putrid waters from whose opera- 
tions are prevented from escaping by the banks of the canal, and exposed 
before the draining to the emanations of a large marsh. This hamlet was so 
unhealthy, that of five-and-twenty or thirty inhabitants I visited, about twenty 
were seriously affected, of whom five died. 

In the carefully prepared report on the progress of cholera at 
Paris, made by the commission of medical men, of which Parent 
Duchatelet was a member, it is mentioned, as a singular incident, 
that in those places where putrid emanations prevailed, " le cho- 
lera ne s'est montre ni plus redoutable ni plus meurtrier que 
dans autres localities." Yet the testimony cited as to this point 
is that of the Maire, "whose zeal equalled his intelligence," and 
he alleges the occurrence of the fact of the liability to fevers, 
which M. Duchatelet elsewhere denies. 

"I have also made some observations which seem to destroy the opinions 
received at this time, as to the sanitary effect of these kinds of receptacles; 

" 1st. The inhabitants of the houses situated the nearest to the depot, and 
which are sometimes tormented with fevers, have never felt any indisposi- 

§ 4. To prove the innocuousness of emanations from human 
remains on the general health, evidence of another class is ad- 
duced, consisting of instances of persons acting as keepers of 
dissecting-rooms, and grave-diggers, and the undertakers' men, 
who, it is stated, have pursued their occupations for long periods, 
and have nevertheless maintained robust health. 

The examination of persons engaged in processes exposed to 
miasma from decomposing animal remains in genera], only shows 
that habit, combined with associations of profit, often prevents or 
blunts the perceptions of the most offensive remains. Men with 
shrunken figures, and the appearance of premature age, and a 
peculiar cadaverous aspect, have attended as witnesses to attest 
their own perfectly sound condition, as evidence of the salubrity 
of their particular occupations! Generally, however, men with 
robust figures and the hue of health are singled out and presented 
as examples of the general innocuousness of the offensive miasma 
generated in the process in which they are engaged. Professor 
Owen mentions an instance of a witness of this class, a very 
robust man, the keeper of a dissecting-room, who appeared to be 



in florid health (which however proved not to be so sound as lie 
himself conceived), who professed perfect unconsciousness of 
having sustained any injury from the occupation, and there was 
no reason to doubt that he really was unconscious of having sus- 
tained or observed any; but it turned out, on inquiry, that he had 
always had the most offensive and dangerous work done by an 
inferior assistant ; and that within his time he had had no less 
than eight assistants, and that every one had died, and some of 
these had been dissected in the theatre where they had served. 
So, frequently, the sextons of graveyards, who are robust men, 
attest the salubrity of the place; but on examining the inferiors, 
the grave-diggers, it appears, where there is much to do, and 
even in some of the new cemeteries, that as a class they are un- 
healthy and cadaverous, and notwithstanding precautions, often 
suffer severely on re-opening graves, and that their lives are fre- 
quently cut short by the work.* There arc very florid and robust 
undertakers; but, as a class, and with all the precautions they 
use, they are unhealthy; and a master undertaker, of considera- 
ble business in the metropolis, states, that " in nine cases out of 
ten the undertaker who has much to do with the corpse is a 
person of cadaverous hue, and you may almost always tell him 
whenever you see him." Fellmongers, tanners, or the workmen 
employed in the preparation of hides, have been instanced by 
several medical writers as a class who, being exposed to emana- 
tions from the skins when in a state of putrefaction, enjoy good 
health ; but it appears that all the workmen are not engaged in 
the process when the skins are in that state, and that those of 
them who are, as a class, do experience the common conse- 
quences. The whole class of butchers, who are much in the 
open air, and have very active exercise, and who are generally 
robust and have florid health, are commonly mentioned as in- 
stances in proof of the innocuousness of the emanations from the 
remains in slaughter-houses ; but master butchers admit that the 
men exclusively engaged in the slaughter-houses, in which perfect 
cleanliness and due ventilation are neglected, are of a cadaverous 
aspect, and suffer proportionately in their health. 

Medical papers have been written in this country and on the 
continent to show that the exposure of workmen to putrid ema- 
nations in the employment of sewer-cleansing has no effect on 
the general health; and when the employers of the labourers 
engaged in such occupations are questioned on the subject, their 
general reply is, that their men " have nothing the matter with 
them :" yet when the class of men who have been engaged in the 
work during any length of time are assembled; when they are 
compared with classes of men of the same age and country, and 

■ Vide also, Trait6 des Maladies des Artisans, par Patissier, d'aprcs Ramazzini, 
8vo. Paris, 1822, p. 151, sur les Fossoyeurs : " Le sort des fossoycurs est tres depln. 
rable, leur face est lividc, leur aspect trisle : je n'en ai vu aucun devenir vieux." 
Also pp. 108-9, 137, 144. 


of the like periods of service in other employments free from such 
emanations, or still more when they are compared with men of 
the same age coming from the purer atmosphere of a rural dis- 
trict, the fallacy is visible in the class, in their more pallid and 
shrunken aspect— the evidence of languid circulation and reduced 
" tone," and even of vitality— and there is then little doubt of the 
approximation given me by an engineer who has observed dif- 
ferent classes of workmen being correct, that employment under 
such a mephitic influence as that in question ordinarily entails a 
loss of at least one-third of the natural duration of life and work- 
ing ability. 

The usual comment of the employers on the admitted facts of 
the ill-health and general brevity of life of the inferior workmen 
engaged in such occupations is, "But they drink— they are a 
drunken set;" and such appears frequently, yet by no means in- 
variably, to be the case. On further examination it appears that 
the exposure to the emanations is productive of nervous depres- 
sion, which is constantly urged by the workmen as necessitating 
the stimulus of spirituous or fermented liquors. The inference 
that the whole of the effects are ascribable to the habitual indul- 
gence in such stimuli is rebutted by the facts elicited on examina- 
tion of other classes of workmen who indulge as much or more, 
but who nevertheless enjoy better health, and a much greater 
average duration of life. It is apt to be overlooked that the 
weakly rarely engage in such occupations, or soon quit them ; 
and that, in general, the men are of the most robust classes, and 
have high wages and rather short hours of work, as well as 
stimulating food. A French physician, M- Labarraque, states in 
respect to the tanners, that notwithstanding the constant expo- 
sure to the emanations from putrid fermentations, it has not been 
" remarked" of the workmen of this class that they are more 
subject to illness than others. A tanner, in a manual written for 
the use of the trade, without admitting the correctness of this 
statement, observes : " Whatever may be the opinion of M. La- 
barraque on this point, we do not hesitate to declare the fact that 
this species of labour cannot be borne by weakly, scrofulous, or 
lymphatic subjects."* 

§ 5. So far as observations have been made on the point (and 
the more those reported upon it are scrutinized, the less trust- 
worthy they appear to be), workmen so exposed do not appear 
to be peculiarly subject to epidemics; many, indeed, appear to 
be exempted from them to such an extent as to raise a presump- 
tion that such emanations have on those " acclimated" to them 
an unexplained preservative effect analogous to vaccination. 
That one miasma may exclude, or neutralize, or modify the in- 
fluence of another, would appear to be prima facie probable. But 
it is now becoming more extensively apparent that the same 

• Manuel du Tanneur et Corroyeur. Paris, 1833, p. 325. 


cause is productive of very different effects on different persons, 
and on the same persons at different times; as in the case men- 
tioned by Dr. Arnott of the school badly drained at Clarendon 
Square, Somers' Town, where every year, while the nuisance 
was at its height, and until it was removed by drainage, the ma- 
laria caused some remarkable form of disease; one year, extra- 
ordinary nervous affection, exhibiting rigid spasms, and then con- 
vulsions of the limbs, such as occur on taking various poisons 
into the stomach; another year, typhoid fever; in another, oph- 
thalmia; in another, extraordinary constipation of the bowels, 
affecting similar numbers of the pupils. ] Such cases as the one 
before cited with respect to the depot for animal matter in Paris, 
where the workmen suffered very little, whilst the people living 
near the depot were " tormented with fevers," are common. The 
effects of such miasma are manifested immediately on all sur- 
rounding human life (and there is evidence to believe they are 
manifest in their degree on animal life*), in proportion to the re- 
lative strength of the destructive agents and the relative strength 
or weakness of the beings exposed to them ; the effects are seen 
first on infants; then on children in the order of their age and 
strength : then on females, or on the sickly, the aged, and feeble; 
last of all, on the robust workmen, and on them it appears on 
those parts of the body that have been previously weakened by 
excess or by illness. Whilst M. Parent Duchatelet was looking 
for immediate appearances of acute disease on the robust work- 
men living amidst the decomposing animal effluvium of the Mont- 
faucon, I have the authority of Dr. Henry Bennett for stating that 
he might have found that the influence of that effluvium was ob- 

* In the course of some inquiries which I made with Professor Owen, when ex- 
amining a slaughterman as to the effects of the effluvia of animal remains on him- 
self and family, some other facts were elicited illustrative of the effects of such 
effluvia on still more delicate life. The man had lived in Bear-yard, near Clare- 
market, which was exposed to the combined effluvia from a slaughter-house and a 
tripe factory. He was a bird-fancier, but he found that he could not rear his birds 
in this place. He had known a bird fresh caught in summer-time die there in a 
week. He particularly noted as having a fatal influence on the birds, the stench 
raised by boiling down the fat from the tripe offal. He said, " You may bang the 
cage out of the garret window in any house round Bear-yard, and if it be a fresh 
bird, it will be dead in a week." He had previously lived for a time in the same 
neighbourhood in a room over a crowded burial-ground in Portugal street ; at 
times in the morning he had seen a mist rise from the ground, and the smell was 
offensive. That place was equally fatal to his birds. He had removed to another 
dwelling in Vere street, Clare-market, which is beyond the smells from those parti- 
cular places, and he was now enabled to keep his birds. In town, however, the 
ordinary singing-birds did not, usually, live more than about 18 months; in cages 
in the country, such birds were known to live as long as nine years or more on the 
same food. When he particularly wished to preserve a pet bird, he sent it for a 
time into the country ; and by repeating this removal he preserved them much 
longer. The fact of the pernicious effect of offensive smells on the small graminivo- 
rous birds, and the short duration of their life in close rooms and districts, was at- 
tested by a bird-dealer. In respect to cattle, the slaughterman gave decided reasons 
for the conclusion, that whilst in the slaughter-house they lost their appetites and 
refused food from the effect of the effluvium of the place, and not, as was popularly 
supposed, from any presentiment of their impending fate. Vide General Sanitary 
Report, p. 103, note, and p. 106. 


servable on the sick at half a mile distant. " " When I was house- 
surgeon at St. Louis," says Dr. Bennett, " I several times re- 
marked, that whenever the wind was from the direction of the 
Monifaucon, the wounds and sores under my care assumed a foul 
aspect. M. Jobert, the surgeon of the hospital, has told me that 
he has repeatedly seen hospital gangrene manifest itself in the 
wards apparently under the same influence. It is a fact known 
to all who are acquainted with St. Louis, that the above malady 
is more frequent at that hospital than at any other in Paris, 
although it is the most airy and least crowded of any. This, I 
think, can only be attributed to the proximity of the Montfaucon. 
Indeed, when the wind blows from that direction, which it often 
does for several months in the year, the effluvium is most odious." 
As an instance of a similar influence of another species of efflu- 
vium, not observed by the healthy inhabitants of a district, it is 
stated that at a large infirmary in this country, when the piece of 
ornamental water, which was formerly stagnant in front of the 
edifice, had a greenish scum upon it, some descriptions of surgical 
operations were not so successful as at other times, and a flow of 
fresh water has been introduced into the reservoir to prevent the 

The immediate contrasts of the apparent immunity of adults to 
conspicuous attacks of epidemics, may perhaps account for the 
persuasion which masters and workmen sometimes express, that 
they owe an immunity from epidemics to their occupation, and 
that the stenches to which they are exposed actually " purify" the 
atmosphere. Numbers of such witnesses have heretofore been 
ready to attest their conviction of the preservative effect, and 
even the positive advantages to health, of the effluvia generated 
by the decomposition of animal or of vegetable matter, or of the 
fumes of minerals, of smoke, soot, and coal gas. But though 
they do not peculiarly suffer from epidemics, it is usually found 
that they are not exempted. In a recent return of the state of 
health of some workmen engaged in cleansing sewers, whilst it 
appeared that very few had suffered any attack from fever, nearly 
all suffered bowel attacks and violent intestinal derangement. If 
the effects of such emanations invariably appeared in the form of 
acute disease, large masses of the population who have lived un- 
der their influence must have been exterminated. In general the 
poison appears only to be generated in a sufficient degree of 
intensity to create acute disease under such a conjunction of cir- 
cumstances, as a degree of moisture sufficient to facilitate decom- 
position, a hot sun, a stagnant atmosphere, and a languid popula- 
tion. The injurious effects of diluted emanations are constantly 
traceable, not in constitutional disturbance at any one time ; they 
have their effect even on the strong, perceptible over a space of 
time in a general depression of health and a shortened period of 
existence. This or that individual may have the florid hue of 
health, and may live under constant exposure to noxious influences 



to his sixtieth or his seventieth year ; but had he not been so ex- 
posed he might have lived in equal or greater vigour to his eigh- 
tieth or his ninetieth year. A cause common to a whole class is 
often, however, not manifest in particular individuals, but is yet 
visible in the pallor and the reduced sum of vitality of the whole 
class, or in the average duration of life in that class as com- 
pared with the average duration of life of another class similarly 
situated, in all respects except in the exposure to that one cause/ 
The effects of a cause of depression on a class are sometimes 
visible in the greater fatality of common accidents. An excess 
of mortality to a class is almost always found, on examination, to 
be traceable to an adequate cause. From the external circum- 
stances of a class of the population, a confident expectation may 
be formed of the sum of vitality of the class, though nothing could 
be separately predicated of a single individual of it. If the former 
vulgar notions were correct as to the salubrity of the stenches 
which prevail in towns, the separate as well as the combined re- 
sults of these several supposed causes of salubrity must be to 
expel fevers and epidemics from the most crowded manufacturing 
districts, and to advance the general health of the inhabitants 
above that of the poorer rural population ; but all such fallacies 
are dissipated by the dreadful facts on the face of the mortuary 
records showing a frequency of deaths, and a reduction of the 
mean duration of life, in proportion to the constancy and the in- 
tensity of the combined operation of these same causes.f 

§ 6. The observations of the effects of such emanations on the 
general health of classes of human beings have been corroborated 
by experiments on animals. 

§ 7. Another doctrine more extensively entertained than that 
above noticed, is, that although putrid emanations are productive 
of injury, they are not productive of specific disease, such as 
typhus. The medical witnesses say, that they were exposed to 
such emanations in dissecting-rooms, where bodies of persons 
who have died of small-pox, typhus, scarlatina, and every species 
of disease, are brought; that they pursued their studies in such 

* On the evidence of individual cases the innocuousness of many poisons and 
diseases might be provtd. Individuals are sometimes found to resist inoculation. 
It is a singular, and as yet unexplained 'fact, that centenarians are often found in 
the greatest proportion in times and places where the average duration of life of the 
whole population is very low. It has been shown from an accurate registration of 
centuries in Geneva, that as the average duration of life amongst the whole commu- 
nity advanced, the proportion of extreme cases of centenarians diminished. Ac- 
cording to the bills of mortality there were nearly three times as many centenarians 
in London a century ago as at present. Out of 141,720 deaths within the bills of 
mortality during the five years ended 1742, the deaths of 58 persons alone of 100 
years and upwards of age arc recorded; whilst out of 139,876 deaths which occurred 
in the metropolis as returned by the registrar-general, during the three years which 
ended 30th June, 1841, only 22 deaths of 100 years of age and upwards are recorded. 
The average age of death of all who died was then 24 years; it is_ now, judging 
from an enumeration made from the returns of 1839, about 27 years;* and there ap- 
pears to have been a considerable improvement in all periods of life up to 90 years. 

t Vide Appendix of the district returns of the Mortuary Registration. 


places, and were unaware of typhus or other disease having 
been taken by the students in them, though that disease was fre- 
quently caught by studenis whilst attending the living in the fever 

The strongest of this class of negative evidence appears to be 
that of undertakers, all of whom that I have seen state that neither 
specific disease nor the propagation of any disease was known 
to occur amongst them, from their employment. Neither the 
men who handle, or who "coffin," the remains; nor the barbers 
who are called in to shavef the corpses of the adult males ; nor 
the bearers of the coffins, although, when the remains are in an 
advanced state of decomposition, the liquid matter from the corpse 
frequently escapes from the coffin, and runs down over their 
clothes, are observed to catch any specific disease from it, either 
in their noviciate, or at any other time. When decomposition is 
very far advanced, and the smell is very offensive, the men en- 
gaged in putting the corpse into the coffin smoke tobacco ; and 
all have recourse to the stimulus of spirituous liquor. But it is 
not known that by their infected clothes they ever propagate 
specific disease in their families, or elsewhere. Neither does this 
appear to be observed amongst the medical men themselves.^ 

§8. On the other hand, the undertakers observe such instances, 
as will be stated in their own words in a subsequent part of the 
report, where others have caught fever and small-pox, apparently 
from the remains of the dead, and they mention instances of per- 
sons coming from a distance to attend funerals, who have shortly 
afterwards become affected with the disease of which the person 
buried had died. Of the undertakers it is observed, that being 
adults, they were likely to have had small-pox. Dr. Williams, in 
a work stated to be of good authority, on the effects of morbid 
poisons, rejates the case of four students infected with small-pox 
by the dead body of a man who had died of this disease, that 

* In the medical profession examples are not rare of the attainment of extreme 
old age ; yet as a class they bear the visible marks of health below the average. 
The registration of one year may be an imperfect index; but the mortuary registra- 
tion for'the year 1839 having been examined, to ascertain what was the average age 
of death of persons of the three professions, it appears that the average age of the 
clergymen who died in London during that year was 59, of the legal profession 50, 
and of the medical profession 45. Only one medical student was included in the 
registration; had the deaths of those who died in their noviciate been included, the 
average age of death of the medical profession would have been much lower. 

+ An instance in exception of a barber having caught fever is subsequently slated. 

t Two days in the week the London Fever Hospital is open to the friends of the 
patients, who often spend a considerable time in the wards, sometimes sitting on the 
beds of the sick ; yet these visiters never take fever themselves nor are they ever 
known to convey it by their clothes to persons out of the hospital In like manner 
the persons employed to convey the clothes of the fever-palients from the wards of 
the hospital do not take fever, nor is there any evidence whatever that typhus fever 
is, or can be, propagated merely by the clothes ; yet it is remarkable that the laun- 
dresses who wash the clothes, which often contain excrement.t.ous mutters from the 
patients, or from the dead, of an amount perceptible to the senses, rarely if ever 
escape fever. It is inferred, that in this case the poison is by the heat put in a state 
of vapour, which is inhaled, and being sufficient in quantity, produces the d.sease. 


was brought into the Windmill-street Theatre, in London, for 
dissection. One of them saw the body, but did not approach it; 
another was near it, but did not touch it ; a third, accustomed to 
make sketches from dead bodies, saw this subject, but did not 
touch it; the fourth alone touched it with both his hands; yet all 
the four caught the disease. Sir Benjamin Brodie mentions cases 
which occurred within his own knowledge, of pupils who caught 
small-pox after exposure to the emanations in the dissecting-room 
from the bodies of persons who had died of that disease. 

Dr. Copeland, in his evidence before the Commiitee of the 
House of Commons, adduced the following remarkable case, 
stated to be of fever communicated after death: — 

About two years ago (says he) I was called, in the course of my profession, 
to see a gentleman, advanced in life, well known to many members in this 
house and intimately known to the Speaker. This gentleman one Sunday 
went into a dissenting chapel, where the principal part of the hearers as they 
died, were buried in the ground or vaults underneath. I was called to him on 
Tuesday evening, and I found him labouring under symptoms of malignant 
fever; either on that visit or the visit immediately following, on questioning 
him on the circumstances which could have given rise to this very malignant 
form of fever, for it was then so malignant that its fatal issue was evident, he 
said that he had gone on the Sunday before (this being on the Tuesday after- 
noon) to this dissenting chapel, and on going up the steps to the chapel he 
felt a rush of foul air issuing from the grated openings existing on each side 
of the steps; the effect upon him was instantaneous; it produced a feeling of 
sinking, with nausea, and so great debility, that he scarcely could get into the 
chapel. He remained a short time, and finding this feeling increase, he went 
out, went home, was obliged to go to bed, and there he remained. When I 
saw him he had, up to the time of my ascertaining the origin of his complaint, 
slept with his wife; he died eight days afterwards; his wife caught the dis- 
ease and died in eight days also, having experienced the same symptoms. 
These two instances illustrated the form of fever arising from those particular 
causes. Means of counteraction were used, and the fever did not extend to 
any other member of the family. 

Assuming that that individual had gone into a crowded hospital with that 
fever, it probably would have become a contagious fever. The disease would 
have propagated itself most likely to others, provided those others exposed to 
the infection were predisposed to the infection, or if the apartments where 
they were confined were not fully ventilated, but in most cases where the 
emanations from the sick are duly diluted by fresh air, they are rendered in- 
nocuous. It is rarely that I have found the effects from dead animal matter 
so very decisive as in this case, because in the usual circumstances of burying 
in towns the fetid or foul air exhaled from the dead is generally so diluted and 
scattered by the wind, as to produce only a general ill effect upon those predis- 
posed ; it affects the health of the community by lowering the vital powers, 
weakening the digestive processes, but without producing any prominent or 
specific disease. 

Mr. Barnett, surgeon, one of the medical officers of the Stepney 
Union, who has observed the symptoms observable in those per- 
sons who are exposed to the emanations from a crowded grave- 
yard, thus describes them : — 

They are characterized by more or less disturbance of the whole system, 
with evident depression of the vital force, as evinced throughout the vascular 
and nervous systems, by the feeble action of the heart and arteries, and Iow- 
ness of the spirits, &c. These maladies, I doubt not, if surrounded by other 


causes, would terminate in fever of the worst description. The cleanliness, 
&c, of the surrounding neighbourhood, perhaps, prevents this actually takino- 

Some years since a vault was opened in the churchyard (Stepney), and 
shortly alter one of the coffins contained therein burst with so loud a' report 
that hundreds flocked to the place to ascertain the cause. So intense was 
the poisonous nature of the effluvia arising therefrom, that a great number 
were attacked with sudden sickness and fainting, many of whom were a con- 
siderable period before they recovered their health. 

The vaults and burial-ground attached to Brunswick chapel, Limehouse, are 
much crowded with dead, and from the accounts of individuals residing in the 
adjoining houses, it would appear that the stench arising therefrom, particu- 
larly when a grave happens to be opened during the summer months, is most 
noxious. In one case it is described to have produced instant nausea and 
vomiting, and attacks of illness are frequently imputed to it. Some say they 
have never had a day's good health since they have resided so near the chapel- 
ground, which, I may remark, is about five feet above the level of the sur- 
rounding yards, and very muddy— so much so, that pumps are frequently used 
to expel the water from the vaults into the streets. 

The bursting of leaden eoffins in the vaults of cemeteries, un- 
less they are watched and " tapped" to allow the mephitic vapour 
to escape, appears to be not unfrequent. In cases of rapid decom- 
position, such instances occur in private houses before the en- 
tombment. An undertaker of considerable experience states: — 

"I have known coffins to explode, like the report of a small gun, in the 
house. I was once called up at midnight by the people, who were in great 
alarm, and who stated that the coffin had burst in the night, as they described 
it, with ' a report like the report of a cannon.' On proceeding to the house I 
found in that case, which was one of dropsy, very rapid decomposition had oc- 
curred, and the lead was forced up. Two other cases have occurred within 
my experience of coffins bursting in this manner. I have heard of similar 
cases from other undertakers. The bursting of lead coffins without- noise is 
more frequent. Of course it is never told to the family unless they have 
heard it, as they would attribute the bursting to some defective construction 
of the coffins." 

The occurrence of cases of instant death to grave-diggers, from 
accidentally inhaling the concentrated miasma which escapes 
from coffins, is undeniable. Slower deaths from exposure to such 
miasma are designated as "low fevers," and whether or not the 
constitutional disturbances attendant on the exposure to the in- 
fluence of such miasma be or not the true typhus, it suffices as a 
case requiring a remedy, that the exposure to that influence is 
apt to produce grievous and fatal injuries amongst the public. 

§ 9. Undertakers state that they sometimes experience, in par- 
ticularly crowded graveyards, a sensation of faintness and nausea 
without perceiving any offensive smell. Dr. Riecke appears to 
conclude from various instances which are given, that emana- 
tions from putrid remains operate in two ways, — one set of effects 
being produced through the lungs by impurity of the air from the 
mixture of irrespirable gases ; the other set, through the olfactory 
nerves by powerful, penetrating, and offensive smells. On the 
whole, the evidence tends to establish the general conclusion that 
offensive smells are true warnings of sanitary evils to the popula- 


tion. The fact of the general offensiveness of such emanations is 
adduced by Dr. Riecke also as evidence of their injurious quality. 

Another circumstance which must awaken in us distrust of putrid emana- 
tions, is the powerful impression they make on the sense of smell. It cer- 
tainly cannot be far from the truth to call the organ of smell the truest sentinel 
of the human frame. " Many animals," observes Rudolplii, " are entirely de- 
pendent on their sense of smell for finding out food that is not injurious; where 
their smell is injured they are easily deceived, and have often fallen a sacri- 
fice to the consequent mistakes." Amongst all known smells, there is, per- 
haps, no one which is so universally, and to such a degree revolting to man, 
as the smell of animal decomposition. The roughest savage, as well as the 
most civilized European, fly with equal disgust from the place where the air is 
infected by it. If an instinct ever can be traced in man, certainly it is in the pre- 
sent case : and is instinct a superfluous monitor exactly in this one case ? Can 
instinct mislead just in this one circumstance 1 ? Can it ever be, that the air 
which fills us with the greatest disgust, is the finest elixir of life, as Dumou- 
lins had the boldness to maintain in one of his official reports. Hippolyte 
Cloquet, in his Osphrestologie has attempted to throw some light on the effect 
of smell on the human frame, and though we must entirely disregard many of 
the anecdotes which he has blended into his inquiry, yet the result remains 
firmly proved that odours in general exert a very powerful influence on the 
health of men, and that all very acutely impressing smells are highly to be 
suspected of possessing injurious properties. 

§ 10. I beg leave on this particular topic to submit the facts and 
opinions contained in communications from two gentlemen who 
have paid close and comprehensive attention to the subject. 

Dr. Southwood Smith, who, as physician to the London Fever 
Hospital, and from having been engaged in several investigations 
as to the effects of putrid emanations on the public health, must 
have had extensive means of observation, states as follows: — 

1. That the introduction of dead animal matter under certain conditions into 
the living body is capable of producing disease, and even death, is universally 
known and admitted. This morbific animal matter may be the product either 
of secretion during life or of decomposition after death. Familiar instances 
of morbific animal matter, the result of secretion during life, are the poisons of 
small-pox and cow-pox, and the vitiated fluids formed in certain acute diseases, 
such as acute inflammations, and particularly of the membranes that line the 
chest and abdomen. On the examination of the body a short time after death 
from such inflammations, the fluids are found so extremely acrid, that even 
when the skin is entirely sound, they make the hands of the examiner smart; 
and if there should happen to be the slightest scratch on the finger, or the mi- 
nutest point not covered by cuticle, violent inflammation is often produced, 
ending, sometimes within forty-eight hours, in death. It is remarkable, and 
it is a proof that in these cases the poison absorbed is not putrid matter, that 
the most dangerous period for the examination of the bodies of persons who 
die of such diseases is from four to five hours after the fatal event, and while 
the body is yet warm. 

That the direct introduction into the system of decomposing and putrescent 
animal matter is capable of producing fevers and inflammations, the intensity 
and malignity of which may be varied at will, according to the putrescency 
of the matter and the quantity of it that is introduced, is proved by numerous 
experiments on animals; while the instances in which human beings are 
seized with severe and fatal affections from the application of the fluids of a 
dead animal body to a wounded, punctured, or abraded surface, sometimes 
when the aperture is so minute as to be invisible without the aid of a lens 
are of daily occurrence. Though this fact is now well known, and is among 


the few that are disputed by no one, it may be worth while to cite a few ex- 
amples of it, as specimens of the manner in which the poison of animal matter, 
when absorbed in this way, acts; a volume might be filled with similar 

The following case is recorded by Sir Astley Cooper: — Mr. Elcock, student 
of anatomy, slightly punctured his finger in opening the body of a hospital 
patient, about twelve o'clock at noon, and in the evening of the same day, 
finding the wound painful, showed it to Sir Astley Cooper, after his surgical 
lecture. During the night the pain increased to extremity, and symptoms of 
high constitutional irritation presented themselves on the ensuing morning. 
No trace of inflammation was apparent beyond a slight redness of the spot at 
which the wound had been inflicted, which was a mere puncture. In the 
evening he was visited by Dr. Babington, in conjunction with Dr. Haighton 
and Sir Astley Cooper; still no local change was to be discovered, but the 
nervous system was agitated in a most violent and alarming degree, the 
symptoms nearly resembling the universal excitation of hydrophobia, and in 
this state he expired, within the period of forty-eight hours from the injury. 

The late Dr. Pett, of Hackney, being present at the examination of the 
body of a lady who had died of peritoneal inflammation after her confinement, 
handled the diseased parts. In the evening of the same day, while at a party, 
he felt some pain in one of his fingers, on which there was a slight blush, but 
no wound was visible at that time. The pain increasing, the finger was ex- 
amined in a stronger light, when, by the aid of a lens, a minute opening in the 
cuticle was observed. During the night the pain increased to agony, and in 
the morning his appearance was extremely altered ; his countenance was suf- 
fused with redness, his eyes were hollow and ferrety; there was a peculiarity 
in his breathing, which never left him during his illness; his manner, usually 
gay and playful, was now torpid, like that of a person who had taken an ex- 
cessive dose of opium ; he described himself as having suffered intensely, and 
said that he was completely knocked down and had not the strength of a 
child, and he sunk exhausted on the fifth day from the examination of the 

George Higginbottom, an undertaker, was employed to remove in a shell 
the corpse of a woman who had died of typhus fever in the London Fever 
Hospital. In conveying the body from the shell into the coffin, he observed 
that his left hand was besmeared with a moisture which had oozed from it. 
He had a recent scratch on his thumb. The following morning this scratch 
was inflamed ; in the evening of the same day he was attacked with a cold 
shivering and pain in his head and limbs, followed the next by other symptoms 
of severe fever; on the fourth day there was soreness in the top of the shoul- 
der and fulness in the axilla; on the fifth the breast became swollen and efflo- 
rescent; on the seventh delirium supervened, succeeded by extreme prostration 
and corna, and death took place on the tenth day. 

A lady in the country received a basket of fish from London which had 
become putrid on the road. In opening the basket she pricked her finger, 
and she slightly handled the fish. On the evening of this day inflammation 
came on in the finger, followed by such severe constitutional symptoms as to 
endinger life, and it was six months before the effects of this wound subsided 
and her health was restored. 

Among many other cases, Mr. Travers gives the following, as displaying 
well the minor degrees of irritation, local and constitutional, to which cooks 
and others, in handling putrid animal matter with chapped and scratched 
fingers, are exposed: — A cook-maid practised herself on a stale hare, for the 
purpose of learning the mode of boning them, in spite of being strongly cau- 
tioned atrain^t it. A few days afterwards two slight scratches, which she 
remembered to have received at the time, began to inflame; one was situated 
on the fore-finger and the other on the ring finger. This inflammation was 
accompanied with a dull pain and feeling of numbness, and an occasional 
darting pain along the inside of the fore-arm. The next day she was 
attacked with excruciating pain at the point of the fore-finger, which 


throbbed so violently ns to give her the sensation of its being about to burst 
at every pulsation. The following morning constitutional symptoms came 

on; her tongue was white and dry; she had no appetite; there was great 
dejection of spirits and languor, and a weal; and unsteady pulse. After suf- 
fering greatly from severe pain in the finger, hand, and arm, and great con- 
stitutional derangement and debility, the local inflammation, disappeared in 
about three weeks, and she then began to recover her appetite and strength. 

2. It is proved by indubitable evidence that this morbific matter is as capa- 
ble of entering the system when minute particles of it are diffused in the 
atmosphere as when it is directly introduced into the blood-vessels by a 
wound. When diffused in the air, these noxious particles are conveyed into 
the system through the thin and delicate walls of the air vesicles of the lungs 
in the act of respiration. The mode in which the air vesicles are formed and 
disposed is such as to give to the human lungs an almost incredible extent of 
absorbing surface, while at every point of this surface there is a vascular tube 
ready to receive any substance imbibed by it, and to carry it at once into the 
current of the circulation. Hence the instantaneousness and the dreadful 
energy with which certain poisons act upon the system when brought into 
contact with the pulmonary surface. A single inspiration of the concentrated 
prussic acid, for example, is capable of killing with the rapidity of a»stroke of 
lightning. So rapidly does this poison affect the system, and so deadly-is its 
nature, that more than one physiologist has lost his life by incautiously inhal- 
ing it while using it for the purpose of experiment. If the nose of an animal 
be slowly passed over a bottle containing this poison, and the animal happen 
to inspire during the moment of the passage, it drops down dead instantane- 
ously, just as when the poison is applied in the form of a liquid to the tongue 
or the stomach. On the other hand, the vapour of chlorine possesses the pro- 
perty of arresting the poisonous effects of prussic acid ; and hence, when an 
animal is all but dead from the effects of this acid, it is sometimes suddenly 
restored to life by holding its mouth over the vapour of chlorine. 

During every moment of life, in natural respiration, a portion of the air of 
the atmosphere passes through the air vesicles of the lungs into the blood, 
while a quantity of carbonic acid gas is given off from the blood, and is trans- 
mitted through the walls of these vesicles into the atmosphere. Now that 
substances mixed with or suspended in atmospheric air may be conveyed with 
it to the lungs and immediately enter into the circulating mass, any one may 
satisfy himself merely by passing through a recently painted chamber. The 
vapour of turpentine diffused through the chamber, is transmitted to the lungs 
with the air which is breathed, and passing into the current of the circulation 
through the walls of the air vesicles, exhibits its effects in some of the fluid 
excretions of the body, even more rapidly than if it had been taken into the 

Facts such as these help us to understand the production and propagation 
of disease through the medium of an infected atmosphere, whether on a large 
scale, as in the case of an epidemic which rapidly extends over a nation or a 
continent, or on a small scale, in the sick-chamber, the dissecting-room, the 
church, and the churchyard. 

Thus it is universally known that, when the atmosphere is infected with 
the matter of small-pox, this disease is produced with the same and even with 
greater certainty than when the matter of small-pox is introduced by the 
lancet directly into a blood-vessel in inoculation. 

It is equally well known that, when the air is infected by particles of de- 
composing vegetable and animal matter, fevers are produced of various types 
and different degrees of intensity; that the exhalations arisin"' from marshes 
bogs, and other uncultivated and undrained places, constitute °a poison chiefly 
of a vegetable nature, which produces principally fevers of an intermittent or 
remittent type; and that exhalations accumulated in close, ill-ventilated, and 
crowded apartments in the confined situations of densely-populated cities 
where little attention is paid to the removal of putrefying and excrementitious 
matters, constitute a poi c on chiefly of an anirn-i! nature, which produces con- 


tinned fever of the typhoid character. There are situations in which these 
putrefying matters, aided by heat and other peculiarities of climate, generate 
a poison so intense and deadly, that a single inspiration of the air in which 
they are diffused is capable of producing almost instantaneous death; and 
there are other situations in which a less highly concentrated poison accumu- 
lates, the inspiration of which for a few minutes produces a fever capable of 
destroying life in from two to twelve hours. In dirty and neglected ships, in 
damp, crowded, and filthy gaols, in the crowded wards of ill-ventilated hospi- 
tals, filled with persons labouring under malignant surgical diseases or bad 
forms of fever, an atmosphere is generated which cannot be breathed long, 
even by the most healthy and robust, without producing highly dangerous 

3. The evidence is just as indubitable that exhalations arise from the bodies 
of the dead, which are capable of producing disease and death. Many in- 
stances are recorded of the communication of small-pox from the corpse of a 
person who has died of small-pox. This has happened not only in the 
dwelling-house before interment, but even in the dissecting-room. Some 
years ago five students of anatomy, at the Webb street school, Southwark, 
who were pursuing their studies under Mr. Grainger, were seized with small- 
pox, communicated from a subject on the dissecting-table, though it does not 
appear that all who were attacked were actually engaged in dissecting this 
body. One of these young men died. There is reason to believe that ema- 
nations from the bodies of persons who have died of other forms of fever have 
proved injurious and even fatal to individuals who have been much in the 
same room with the corpse. 

The exhalations arising from dead bodies in the dissecting-room are in 
general so much diluted by admixture with atmospheric air, through the ven- 
tilation which is kept up, that they do not commonly affect the health in a 
very striking or marked manner; and, by great attention to ventilation, it is 
no doubt possible to pursue the study of anatomy with tolerable impunity. 
Yet few teachers of anatomy deny that without this precaution this pursuit is 
very apt to injure the health, and that, with all the precaution that can be 
taken it sometimes produces such a degree of diarrhoea, and at other times 
such a general derangement of the digestive organs, as imperatively to require 
an absence for a time from the dissecting-room and a residence in the pure air 
of the country. The same statements are uniformly made by the professors 
of veterinary anatomy in this country. The result of inquiries which I have 
personally made into the state of the health of persons licensed to slaughter 
horses, called knackers, is, that though they maintain their health apparently 
unimpaired for some time, yet that after a time the functions of the nutritive 
organs become impaired, they begin to emaciate, and present a cadaverous 
appearance, slight wounds fester and become difficult to heal, and that upon 
the whole they are a short-lived race. 

The exhalations arising from dead bodies interred in the vaults of churches, 
and in churchyards, are also so much diluted with the air of the atmosphere, 
that they do not commonly affect the health in so immediate and direct a 
manner as plainly to indicate the source of these noxious influences. It is 
only when some accidental circumstances have favoured their accumulation 
or concentration in an unusual degree, that the effects become so sensible as 
obviously to declare their cause. Every now and then, however, such a con- 
currence of circumstances does happen, of which there are many instances on 
record ; but it may suffice for the present to mention one, the particulars of 
which I have received from a gentleman who is known to me, and on the 
accuracy of whose statements I can rely. 

Mr. Hutchinson, surgeon, Farringdon street, was called on Monday morn- 
ing, the 15th March, 1841, to attend a girl, aged fourteen, who was labouring 
under typhus fever of a highly malignant character. This girl was the 
daughter of a pew-opener in one of the large city churches, situated in the 
centre of a small burial-ground, which had been used for the interment of the 
dead for centuries, the ground of which was raised much above its natural 



level, and was saturated with the remains of the bodies of the ddad. Then 

were vaults beneath the church, in which it was still the custom, as it 
long been, to bury the dead. The girl in question had recently returned from 
the country, where she had been at school. On the preceding Friday, that is 
on the fourth day before Mr. Hutchinson saw her, she had assisted her mother 
during three hours, and on the Saturday during one hour, in shaking and 
cleansing the matting of the aisles and pews of the church. Tin 1 mother 
stated, that this work was generally done once in six weeks; that the dust 
and effluvia which arose, always had a peculiarly foetid and offensive odour, 
very unlike the dust which collects in private houses; that it invariably mad< 
her (the mother) ill for at least a day afterwards; and that it used to make 
the grandmother of the present patient so unwell, that she was compelled to 
hire a person to perform this part of her duty. On the afternoon of the same 
day on which the young person now ill had been engaged in her employment, 
she was seized with shivering, severe pain in the head, back, and limbs, and 
other symptoms of commencing fever. On the following day all these symp- 
toms were aggravated, and in two days afterwards, when Mr. Hutchinson first 
saw la r, malignant fever was fully developed, the skin being burning hot, the 
tongue dry and covered with a dark brown fur, the thirst urgent, the pain of 
the head, back, and extremities severe, attended with hurried and oppressed 
breathing, great restlessness and prostration, anxiety of countenance, low 
muttering delirium, and a pulse of one hundred and thirty in the minute. 

In this case it is probable that particles of noxious animal matter progres- 
sively accumulated in the matting during the intervals between the cleansing 
of it ; and that being set free by this operation, and diffused in the atmosphere, 
while they were powerful enough always sensibly to effect even those who 
were accustomed to inhale them, were sufficiently concentrated to produce 
actual fever in one wholly unaccustomed to them, and rendered increasingly 
susceptible to their influence by recent residence in the pure air of the coun- 
try ; for it is remarkable that miasms sometimes act with the greatest inten- 
sity on those who habitually breathe the purest air. 

The miasms arising from churchyards are in general too much diluted by 
the surrounding air to strike the neighbouring inhabitants with sudden and 
severe disease, yet they may materially injure the health, and the evidence 
appears to me to be decisive that they often do so. Among others who some- 
limes obviously suffer from this cause, arc the families of clergymen, when, as 
occasionally happens, the vicarage or rectory is situated very close to a full 
churchyard. I myself know one such clergyman's family, whose dwelling- 
house is so close to an extremely full churchyard that a very disagreeable 
smell from the graves is always perceptible in some of the sitting and sleeping 
rooms. The mother of this family states that she has never had a day's health 
since she has resided in this house, and that her children are always ailintr ; 
and their ill health is attributed, both by the family and their medical friends' 
to the offensive exhalations from the churchyard. 

Dr. Lyon Playfair states as follows in his communication 

There are two kinds of changes which animal and vegetable matter undergo, 
when exposed to certain influences. These are known by the terms of "decay" 
and " putrefaction." Decay, properly so called, is a union of the elements of 
organic matter with the oxygen of the air; while putrefaction, although gene- 
rally commencing with decay, is a change or transformation of the elements 
of the organic body itself, without any necessary union with the oxygen of the 
air. When decay proceeds in a body without putrefaction, offensive smells 
are not generated; but if the air in contact with the decaying matter be in 
any way deficient, the decay passes into putrefaction, and putrid smells arise 
Putrid smells are rarely if ever evolved from substances destitute of the ele- 
ment nitrogen. 

Both decaying and putrefying matters are capable of communicating their 
own state of putrefaction or of decay to any organic matter with which they 
may come in contact. To take the simplest case, a piece of decayed wood a 


decaying orange, or a piece of tainted flesh, is capable of causing similar 
decay or putrefaction in another piece of wood, orange, or flesh. In a similar 
manner the decaying gases evolved from sewers occasion the putrescence of 
meat or of vegetables hung in the vicinity of the place from which they 
escape. But this communication of putrefaction is not confined to dead 
matter. When tainted meat or putrescent blood-puddings are taken as food, 
their slate of putrefaction is frequently communicated to the bodies of the 
persons who have used them as food. A disease analogous to rot ensues, and 
generally terminates fatally. Happily this disease is little known among us, 
but it is of very frequent occurrence in Germany. 

The decay or putrefaction communicated by putrid gases or by decaying 
matters does not always assume one form, but varies according to the organs 
to which their peculiar state is imparted. If communicated to the blood, it 
might possibly happen that fever may arise ; if to the intestines, dysentery or 
diarrhoea might result; and I think it might even be a question worthy of 
consideration, whether consumption may not arise from such exposure. Cer- 
tainly it seems to do so among cattle. The men who are employed in clean- 
ing out drains are very liable to the attacks of dysentery and of diarrhoea ; and 
1 recollect instances of similar diseases occurring among some fellow-students 
when 1 attended the dissecting-rooms. 

The effects produced by decaying emanations will vary according to the 
state of putrefaction or decay in which these emanations are, as well as 
according to their intensity and concentration. Thus it occurs frequently 
that persons susceptible to contagion may be in the vicinity of a fever patient 
without acquiring the disease. 1 know one celebrated medical man who 
attends his own patients in fever without danger, but who has never been 
able to take charge of the fever-wards in an infirmary, from the circumstance 
of his being unable to resist the influence of the contagion under such circum- 
stances. This gentleman has had fever several times. This shows that the 
contagion of fever requires a certain degree of concentration before it is able 
to produce its immediate effects. A knowledge of this circumstance has in- 
duced several infirmaries (the Bristol infirmary, for example,) to abolish alto- 
gether fever-wards and to scatter the fever cases indiscriminately through the 
medical wards. Owing to this distribution, cases in which fever is communi- 
cated to other patients or nurses in the infirmary are very unfrequent, although 
they are far from being so in those hospitals where the fever cases are grouped 

I consider that the want of attention to the circumstance of the concentra- 
tion of decaying emanations is a great reason that the effects of miasmata in 
producing fever is still a queslio vexata. Thus there may be many church- 
yards and sewers evolving decaying matter, and yet no fever may occur in 
the locality. Some other more modified effect may be produced, according to 
the degree of concentration of the decaying matter, such as diarrhoea or even 
dysentery; or there may be no perceptible effects produced, although the 
blood may still be thrown into a diseased state which will render it suscepti- 
ble to any specific contagion that approaches. It must be remembered that 
decaying exhalations will not always produce similar effects, but that these 
will vary, not only according to the concentration, but also according to the 
state of decomposition in which the decaying matters are. 

The rennet for making cheese is in a peculiar state of decay, or rather is 
capable of a series of stales of decay, and the flavour of the cheese manufac- 
tured by means of it varies also according to the state of the rennet. Just so 
with the diseases produced by the peculiar state or concentration of decaying 
matters or of specific contagions. When the Asiatic cholera visited this 
country many of the towns were afflicted with dysentery before the cholera 
appeared in an unquestionable form. In like manner the miasmata evolved 
from churchyards may produce injurious effects which may not be sufficiently 
marked to call attention until they assume a more serious form by becoming 
more concentrated. But notwithstanding the absence of marked effects, it is 
extremely probable that constant exposure to miasmata may produce a diseased 


state of the blood. Thus I had occasion to visit and report upon, amongst 
other matters, the state of slaughter-houses in Bristol. These are generally 
situated in courts, very inefficiently ventilated, as all courts are. I remarked 
that the men employed in the slaughter-houses had a remarkably cadaverous 
hue, and this was participated in a greater or less degree by the inhabitants 
of the court. So much was this the case, that in a court where the smells 
from the slaughter-house were so offensive that my companion had imme- 
diately to retire from sickness, I immediately singled out one person as not 
belonging to the court from a number of people who ran out of their houses to 
inquiTe the object of my visit. The person who attracted my attention from 
her healthy appearance compared with the others, had entered this court to 
pay a visit to a neighbour. 

§ 11. That conclusions respecting such immensely important 
effects can only be established by reasonings on facts frequently 
so scattered over distant times and places as to require much re- 
search to bring them together; that those conclusions are still 
open to controversy, and have hitherto been maintained only by 
references to statements of distant observations, whilst regularly 
sustained examinations of the events occurring daily in our large 
towns might have placed them beyond a doubt; may be sub- 
mitted as showing the necessity of some public arrangements to 
insure constant attention, and complete information on these sub- 
jects, as the basis of complete measures of prevention. 

§ 12. The conclusions, however, which appear to be firmly es- 
tablished by the evidence, and the preponderant medical testi- 
mony, are on every point, as to the essential character of the 
physical evils connected with the practice of interment, so closely 
coincident with the conclusions deduced from observation on the 
continent, that from Dr. Riecke's report (and to which a prize 
was awarded by an eminent medical association), in which the 
preponderant medical opinions are set forth, they may be stated 
in the following terms : — 

" The general conclusions from the foregoing report may be 
given as follows : 

" The injurious effect of the exhalations from the decomposition 
in question upon the health and life of man is proved by a suffi- 
cient number of trustworthy facts; 

" That this injurious influence is by no means constant, and de- 
pends on varying and not yet sufficiently explained circumstances; 

" That this injurious influence is manifest in proportion to the 
degree of concentration of putrid emanations, especially in con- 
fined spaces ; and in such cases of concentration the injurious 
influence is manifest in the production of asphyxia and the sud- 
den and entire extinction of life; 

" That, in a state less concentrated putrid emanations produce 
various effects on the nerves of less importance, as fainting, nau- 
sea, headache, languor; 

" These emanations, however, if their effect is often repeated, 
or if the emanations be long applied, produce nervous and putrid 
fevers; or impart to fevers, which have arisen from other causes 
a typhoid or putrid character ; 


" Apparently they furnish the principal cause of the most de- 
veloped form of typhus, that is to say, the plague {Der Bubonen- 
pesl). Besides the products of decomposition, the contagious 
material may also be active in the emanations arising from dead 

§ 13. Such being the nature of the emanations from human re- 
mains in a state of decomposition, or in a state of corruption, the 
obtainment of any definite or proximate evidence of the extent of 
the operation of those emanations on the health of the population 
nevertheless appears to be hopeless in crowded districts. In such 
districts the effects of an invisible fluid have not been observed, 
amidst a complication of other causes, each of a nature ascer- 
tained to produce an injurious effect upon the public health, but 
undistinguished, except when it accidentally becomes predomi- 
nant. The sense of smell in the majority of inhabitants seems to 
be destroyed, and having no perception even of stenches which 
are insupportable to strangers, they must be unable to note the 
excessive escapes of miasma as antecedents to disease. Occa- 
sionally, however, some medical witnesses, who have been accus- 
tomed to the smell of the dissecting-room, detect the smell of 
human remains from the graveyards, in crowded districts ; and 
other witnesses have stated that they can distinguish what is 
called the " dead man's smell," when no one else can, and can 
distinguish it from the miasma of the sewers. 

In the case of the predominance of the smell from the grave- 
yard, the immediate consequence ordinarily noted is a headache. 
A military officer stated to me that when his men occupied as 
a barrack a building which opened over a crowded burial-ground 
in Liverpool, the smell from the ground was at times exceedingly 
offensive, and that he and his men suffered from dysentery. A 
gentleman who had resided near that same ground, stated to me 
that he was convinced that his own health, and the health of his 
children had suffered from it, and that he had removed to avoid 
further injury. The following testimony of a lady, respecting the 
miasma which escaped from one burial-ground at Manchester, is 
adduced as an example of the more specific testimony as to the 
perception of its effects. This testimony also brings to view the 
circumstance that in the towns it is not only in surface emana- 
tions from the graveyards alone that the morbific matter escapes. 

You resided formerly in the house immediately contiguous to the burying- 
ground of chapel, did you not 1 — Yes I did, but I was obliged to leave it. 

Why were you so obliged 1 — When the wind was west, the smell was 
dreadful. There is a main sewer runs through the burying-ground, and the 
smell of the dead bodies came through this sewer up our drain, and until we 
got that trapped, it was quite unbearable. 

Do you not think the smell arose from the emanations of the sewer, and not 
from the burying ground ?— I am sure they came from the burying-ground ; 
the smell coming from the drain was exactly the same as that which reached 
us when the wind was west, and blew upon us from the burying-ground. 
The smell was very peculiar ; it exactly resembled the smell which clothes 
have when they are removed from a dead body. My servants would not re- 



main in the house on account of it, and I had several cooks who removed on 
this account. 

Did you observe any effects on your health when the smells were bad? 
—Yes, I am liable to headaches, and these were always bad when the smells 
were so also. They were often accompanied by diarrhoea in this house. Be- 
fore I went there, and since I left, my headaches have been very trifling. 

Were any of the other inmates of the house afflicted with illness? — I had 
often to send for the surgeon to my servants, who were liable to ulcerated sore 

And your children, were they also affected ? — My youngest child was very 
delicate, and we thought he could not have survived ; since lie came here he 
has become quite strong and healthy, but I have no right to say the burying- 
ground had any connexion with his health. 

§ 14. In the course of an examination of the chairman and 
Surveyor of the Holborn and Finsbury Division of Sewers, on the 
general management of sewers in London, the following passage 
occurs ; — 

* Von do not believe that the nuisance arises in all cases from the main 
sewers] (Mr. Roe) — Not always from the main sewers. (Mr. Mills) — Con- 
nected with this point, I would mention, that where the sewers came in con- 
tact with churchyards, the exudation is most offensive. 

"Have you noticed that in more than one case? — Yes. 

" In those cases have you had any opportunities of tracing in what manner 
the exudation from the churchyards passed to the sewer ? — It must have been 
through the sides of the sewers. 

"Then, if that be the case, the sewer itself must have given way? — No; 
I apprehend even if you use concrete, it is impossible but that the adjacent 
waters would find their way even through cement; it is the natural conse- 
quence. The wells of the houses adjacent to the sewers all get dry whenever 
the sewers are lowered. 

" You are perfectly satisfied that in the course of time exudations very often 
do, to a certain extent, pass through the brickwork? — Ye3; it is impossible 
to prevent it. 

" Have you ever happened to notice whether there was putrid matter in all 
cases where the sewer passed through a burial-ground ? — The last church- 
yard I passed by was in the parish of St. Pancras, when the sewer was con- 
structing. I observed that the exudation from it into the sewer wfs peculiarly 
offensive, and was known to arise from the decomposition of the bodies. 

" At what distance was the sewer from the churchyard where you found 
that?— Thirty feet." J 

Mr. Roe subsequently stated — 

"Mr. Jacob Post, Jiving at the corner of Church-street, Lower Road, 
Islington, stated to our clerk of the works, when we were building a sewer 
opposite Mr. Post's house, that he had a pump, the water from" the^ well 
attached to which had been very good, and used for domestic purposes ■ but 
that, since a burying-ground was formed above his house, the water in his 
well had become of so disagreeable a flavour as to prevent its br>in<r used as 
heretofore : and he was in hopes that the extra depth of our sewer would 
relieve him from the drainage of the burying-ground, to which he attributed 
the spoiling of his water." 

Professor Brande states that he has "frequently found the 
well-water of London contaminated by organic matters and am- 
moniacal salts," and refers to an instance of one well near a 
churchyard, "the water of which had not only acquired odour 
but colour from the soil ;" and mentions other instances of which 
he has heard, as justifying the opinion, that as " very many of 


these wells are adjacent to churchyards, the accumulating soil 
of which has been so heaped up by ihe succession of dead bodies 
and coffins, and the products of their decomposition, as to form 
a filtering apparatus, by which all superficial springs must of 
course be more or less affected." Some of the best springs in 
the metropolis are, fortunately, of a depth not likely to be consi- 
derably affected by such filtration. In Leicester, and other 
places, I have been informed of the disuse of wells near church- 
yards, on account of the perception of a taint in them. The 
difficulty of distinguishing by any analysis the qualities of the 
morbific matter when held in solution or suspension in water, in 
combination with other matters in towns, and the consequent 
importance of the separate examination already given to those 
qualities, may be appreciated from such cases as the following, 
which are by no means unfrequent. In the instance of the water 
of one well in the metropolis, which had ceased to be used, in 
consequence of an offensive taste (contracted, as was suspected, 
from the drainage of an adjacent churchyard), it was doubted 
whether it could be determined by analysis what portion of the 
pollution arose from that source, what from the leakage of adja- 
cent cess-pools, and what from the leakage of coal-gas from ad- 
jacent gas-pipes. In most cases of such complications, the parties 
responsible for any one contributing source of injury are apt to 
challenge, as they may safely do, distinct proof of the separate 
effect produced by that one. Popular perceptions, as well as 
chemical analysis, are at present equally baffled by the combina- 
tion, and complaints of separate injuries are rarely made. If, 
therefore, the combined evil is to remain until complaints are 
made of the separate causes, and their specific effects on the 
health, and until they can be supported by demonstration, perpe- 
tual immunity would be insured to the most noxious combina- 

The effects of unguarded interments have, however, as will 
subsequently be noticed, been observed with greater care on the 
continent, and the proximity of wells to burial-grounds has been 
reported to be injurious. Thus it is stated in a collection of 
reports concerning the cemeteries of the town of Versailles, that 
the water of the wells which lie below the churchyard of St. 
Louis, could not be used on account of its stench. In conse- 
quence of various investigations in France, a law was passed, 
prohibiting the opening of wells within 100 metres of any place 
of burial; but this distance is now stated to bo insufficient for 
deep wells, which have been found, on examination, to be polluted 
at a distance of from 150 to 200 metres. In some parts of Ger- 
many, the opening of wells nearer than 300 feet has been prohi- 

§ 15. Where the one deleterious cause is less complicated with 
others,' as in open plains after the burial of the dead in fields of 
battle,'the effects are perceived in the offensiveness of the surface 


emanations, and also in the pollution of the water, followed by 
disease, which compels the survivors to change their encamp- 

The Tact is thus adduced in the evidence of Dr. Copeland :— 

" It is fully ascertained and well recognised that the alluvial 
soil, or whatever soil that receives the exuvirc of animal matter, 
or the bodies of dead animals, will become rich in general ; it will 
abound in animal matter; and the water that percolates through 
the soil thus enriched will thus become injurious to the health of 
the individuals using it: that has been proved on many occasions, 
and especially in warm climates, and several remarkable facts 
illustrative of it occurred in the peninsular campaigns. It was 
found, for instance, at Ciudad Rodrigo, where, as Sir J. Mac- 
gregor states in his account of the health of the army, there were 
20,000 dead bodies put into the ground within the space of two 
or three months, that this circumstance appeared to influence the 
health of the troops, inasmuch as for some months afterwards all 
those exposed to the emanations from the soil, as well as obliged 
to drink the water from the sunk wells, were affected by malig- 
nant and low fevers and dysentery, or fevers frequently putting 
on a dysenteric character." 

§ 1G. In the metropolis, on spaces of ground which do not ex- 
ceed 203 acres, closely surrounded by the abodes of the living, 
layer upon layer, each consisting of a population numerically 
equivalent to a large army of 20,000 adults, and nearly 30,000 
youths and children, is every year imperfectly interred. Within 
the period of the existence of the present generation, upwards of 
a million of dead must have been interred in those same spaces. 

§ 17. A layer of bodies is stated to be about seven years in de- 
caying in the metropolis ; to the extent that this is so, the decay 
must be by the conversion of the remains into a gas, and its 
escape, as a miasma, of many times the bulk of the body that has 

§ 18. In some of the populous parishes, where, from the nature 
of the soil, the decomposition has not been so rapid as the inter- 
ments, the place of burial has risen in height ; and the height of 
many of them must have greatly increased but for surreptitious 
modes of diminishing it by removal, which, it must be confessed, 
has diminished the sanitary evil, though by the creation of an- 
other and most serious evil, in the mental pain and apprehensions 
of the survivors and feelings of abhorrence of the population, 
caused by the suspicion and knowledge of the disrespect and de- 
secration of the remains of the persons interred. 

§ 19. The claims to exemption in favour of burial-grounds 
which it is stated are not overcrowded would perhaps be most 
favourably considered by the examination of the practice of inter- 
ment in the new cemeteries, where the proportion of interments 
to the space is much less. 

§ 20. I have visited and questioned persons connected with 


several of these cemeteries in town and country, and I have 
caused the practice of interments in others of them to be ex- 
amined by more competent persons. The inquiry brought for- 
ward instances of the bursting of some leaden coffins and the 
escape of mephitic vapour in the catacombs ; the tapping of 
others to prevent similar casualties; injuries sustained by grave- 
diggers from the escapes of miasma on the re-opening of graves, 
and an instance was stated to me by the architect of one ceme- 
tery, of two labourers having been injured, apparently by digging 
amidst some impure water which drained from some graves. 
No precedent examination of the evils affecting the public health, 
that are incident to the practice of interment, appears to have 
been made, no precedent scientific or impartial investigation ap- 
pears to have been thought necessary by the joint-stock compa- 
nies, or by the Committees of the House of Commons, at whose 
instance privileges were conferred upon the shareholders; no 
new precautionary measures or improvements such as are in use 
abroad, appear consequently to have been introduced in them ; 
the practice of burial has in general been simply removed to 
better looking, and in general, better situated places. The con- 
clusion, however, from the examination of these places (which 
will subsequently be reverted to) is, that if most of the cemeteries 
themselves were in the midst of the population, they would, even 
in their present state, often contribute to the combination of causes 
of ill health in the metropolis, and several of the larger towns. 

§ 21. It has been considered that all danger from interments in 
towns would be obviated if no burials were allowed except at a 
depth of five feet. But bodies buried much deeper are found to 
decay; and so certain as a body has wasted or disappeared is 
the fact that a deleterious gas has escaped. In the towns where 
the graveyards and streets are paved, the morbific matter must 
be diffused more widely through the sub-soil, and escape with the 
drainage. If the interments be so deep as to impede escapes at 
the surface, there is .only the greater danger of escape by deep 
drainage and the pollution of springs. 

Dr. Reid detected the escape of deleterious miasma from graves 
of more than 20 feet deep. He states — 

In some churchyards I have noticed the ground to be absolutely saturated 
with carbonic acid gas, so that whenever a deep grave was dug it was filled 
in some hours afterwards with such an amount of carbonic acid gas that the 
workmen could not descend without danger. Deaths have, indeed, occurred 
occasionally in some churchyards from this cause, and in a series of experi- 
ments made in one of the churchyards at Manchester, where deep graves are 
made, each capable of receiving from 20 to 30 bodies, I found in general that 
a grave covered on the top at night was more or less loaded with carbonic 
acid in the morning, and that it was essential, accordingly, to ventilate these 
grave-pits before it was safe to descend. . 

This I effected on some occasions by means of a small chauffer placed at the 
top, and at one end of the grave a tube or hose being let down from it to the 
bottom of the ffrave. The fire was sustained by the admission of a small por- 
tion of fresh air at the top, and the air from the bottom of the grave was gra- 


dually removed as the upper stratum was heated hy the fire around which it 
was conveyed; and when it had been once emptied in this manner a small 
fire was found sufficient to sustain a perpetual renewal of air, and prevent the 
men at work in the grave-pits from being subject to the extreme oppression 
to which they are otherwise liable, even when there may be no immediate 
danger. A mechanical power might be used for the same purpose ; and chemi- 
cal 'agents, as a quantity of newly slaked lime, are frequently employed, as 
they absorb the carbonic acid. From different circumstances that have since 
occurred, it appears to me probable that numerous examples of strata or super- 
ficial soil containing carbonic acid may be more frequently met with than is 
generally suspected, and that while in churchyards the presence of large 
quantities of carbonic acid may be frequently anticipated, its presence must 
not always be attributed solely to the result of the decomposition of the human 

The amount of carbonic acid that collects within a given time in a deep 
grave-pit intended to receive 20 or 30 bodies, is much influenced by the na- 
ture of the ground in which it is dug. In the case referred to, the porous tex- 
ture of the earth allowed a comparatively free aerial communication below 
the surface of the ground throughout its whole extent. It was, in reality, 
loaded with carbonic acid in the same manner as other places are loaded with 
water; it was only necessary to sink a pit, and a well of carbonic acid wtis 
formed, into which a constant stream of the same gas continued perpetually 
to filter from the adjacent earth, according to the extent to which it was re- 
moved. From whatever source, however, the carbonic acid may arise, it is 
not the less prone to mingle with the surrounding air, and where the level of 
the floor of the church is below the level of the churchyard, there the car- 
bonic acid is prone to accumulate, as, though it may be ultimately dispersed 
by diffusion, it may be considered as flowing in the same manner in the first 
instance as water, where the quantity is considerable. 

Again, where the drainage of the district in which the church may be 
placed is of an inferior description, and liable to be impeded periodically by 
the state of the tide, as in the vicinity of the Houses of Parliament, where all 
the drains are closed at high water, the atmosphere is frequently of the most 
inferior quality. I am fully satisfied, for instance, not only from my own ob- 
servation, but from different statements that have reached me, and also from 
the observations of parties who have repeatedly examined the subject at my 
request, that the state of the burying-ground around St. Margaret's church is 
prejudicial to the air supplied at the Mouses of Parliament, and also to the 
whole neighbourhood. One of them, indeed, stated to me lately that he had 
avoided the churchyard for the last six months, in consequence of the effects 
he experienced the last time he visited it. These offensive emanations have 
been noticed at all hours of the night and morning; and even durino- the day 
the smell of the churchyard has been considered to have reached the°vanlts in 
the House of Commons, and traced to sewers in its immediate vicinity. When 
the barometer is low, the surface of the ground slightly moist, the tide full, 
and the temperature considerable — all which circumstances tend to favour the 
evolution of effluvia both from the grave-pits and the drains the most inju- 
rious influence upon the air is observed. In some places not far from this 
churchyard fresh meat is frequently tainted in a single night, on the eround- 
floor, in situations where at a higher level it may be kept without injury for a 
much longer period. In some cases, in private houses as well as at the Houses 
of Parliament, I have had to make use of ventilating shafts, or of preparations 
of chlorine, to neutralize the offensive and deleterious effects which the exha- 
lations produced, while, on other occasions, their injurious influence has "been 
abundantly manifested by the change induced in individuals subjected to their 
influence on removing to another atmosphere. No grievance, perhapc entails 
greater physical evils upon any district than the conjoined influence of bad 
drainage and crowded churchyards; and until the drainage of air from drains 
shall be secured by the process adverted to in another part of this work 
some equivalent measures, they cannot be regarded as free from a verv im 
portant defect. 3 * 


The drainage of air from drains is, indeed, desirable under any circum- 
stances; but when the usual contaminations of the drain are increased by the 
emanations from a loaded churchyard, it becomes doubly imperative to intro- 
duce such measures; and if any one should desire to trace the progress of re- 
action by which the graveyards are continually tending to free themselves of 
their contents, a very brief inquiry will give him abundant evidence on this 
point. My attention was first directed to this matter in London ten years ago, 
when a glass of water handed to me at a hotel, in another district, presented 
a peculiar film on its surface, which led me to set it aside; and after nume- 
rous inquiries, I was fully satisfied that the appearance which had attracted 
my attention arose from the coffins in a churchyard immediately adjoining the 
well where the water had been drawn. Defective as our information is as to 
the precise qualities of the various products from drains, churchyards, and 
other similar places, I think I have seen enough to satisfy me that in all such 
situations the fluids of the living system imbibe materials which, though they 
do not always produce great severity of disease, speedily induce a morbid con- 
dition, which, while it renders the body more prone to attacks of fever, is 
more especially indicated by the facility with which all the fluids pass to a 
state of putrefaction, and the rapidity with which the slightest wound or cut 
is apt to pass into a sore. 

Mr. Leigh, surgeon and lecturer of chemistry at Manchester, 
confirms the researches made by Dr. Reid in that town, nnd ob- 
serves on this subject — 

But the decomposition of animal bodies is remarkably modified by external 
circumstances where the bodies are immersed in or surrounded by water, and 
particularly, if the water undergo frequent change, the solid tissues become 
converted into adipocire, a fatty spermaceti-like substance, not very prone to 
decomposition, and this change is effected without much gaseous exhalation. 
Under such circumstances nothing injurious could arise, but under ordinary 
conditions slow decomposition would take place, with the usual products of 
the decomposition of animal matters, and here the nature of the soil becomes 
of much interest. If the burial-ground be in damp dense compact clay, with 
much water, the water will collect round the body, and there will be a dispo- 
sition to the formation of adipocire, whilst the clay will effectually prevent the 
escape of gaseous matter. If on the other hand the bodies be laid in sand or 
gravel, decomposition will readily take place, the gases will easily permeate 
the superjacent soil and escape into the atmosphere, and this with a facility 
which may be judged of when the fact is stated that under a pressure of only 
three-fourths of an inch of water, coal gas will escape by any leakage in the 
conduit pipes through a stratum of sand or grave] of three feet in thickness in 
an exceedingly short space of time. The three feet of soil seems to oppose 
scarcely any resistance to its passage to the surface; but if the joints of the 
pipes be enveloped by a thin layer of clay, the escape is effectually prevented. 

If bodies were interred eight or ten feet deep in sandy or gravelly soils, I 
am convinced little would be gained by it ; the gases would find a ready exit 
from almost any practicable depth. 

§ 22. He also expresses an opinion concurrent with that of other 
physiologists, that the effects of these escapes in an otherwise sa- 
lubrious locality, soon attract notice, but their influence in obe- 
dience to the laws of gaseous diffusion, developed by Dalton and 
Graham, is not the less scattered over a town, because in a mul- 
titude of scents they escape observation. In open rural districts 
these gases soon intermix with the circumambient air, and become 
so vastly diluted that their injurious tendency is less potent. 

Other physical facts which it is necessary to develope in re- 


spect to the practice of interment may be the most conveniently 
considered in a subsequent portion of this report, where it is ne- 
cessary to adduce the information possessed, as to the sites of 
places of burial, and the sanitary precautions necessary in respect 
to them. 

§ 23. From what has already been adduced, it may here be 
stated as a conclusion, 

That inasmuch as there appear to be no cases in which the 
emanations from human remains in an advanced stage of decom- 
position are not of a deleterious nature, so there is no case in 
which the liability to danger should be incurred either by inter- 
ment (or by entombment in vaults, which is the most dangerous) 
amidst the dwellings of the living, it being established as a general 
conclusion in respect to the physical circumstances of interment, 
from which no adequate grounds of exception have been esta- 
blished : — 

That all interments in towns, where bodies decompose, contri- 
bute to the mass of atmospheric impurity which is injurious to the 
public health. 

§ 21. Amongst these means, one for preventing the escape of 
emanations at the surface by absorbing and purifying them, is 
entirely in accordance with the popular feeling. The great body 
of English poetry, which it has been remarked is more rich on 
the subject of sepulture than the poetry of any other nation, 
abounds with reference to the practice of ornamenting graves 
with flowers, shrubs, and trees. A rich vegetation exercises a 
powerful purifying influence, and where the emanations are 
moderate, as from single graves, would go far to prevent the 
escape of any deleterious miasma. It is conceived that the 
escapes of large quantities of deleterious gases by the Assuring of 
the ground would often be in a very great degree prevented by 
turfing over the surface, or by soiling, that is, by laying vegetable 
mould of five or six inches in thickness and sowing it carefully with 
grasses whose roots spread and mesh together. At the Abney Park 
Cemetery, where the most successful attention is paid to the vege- 
tation, this is done; but in some districts of towns it marks the 
impurity of the common atmosphere that even grass will not thrive; 
and that flowers and shrubs which live on the river side, or in 
spaces open to the breeze, become weakly and die rapidly in the 
enclosed spaces in the crowded districts. Several species of ever- 
greens, and the plants which have gummy or resinous leaves, that 
are apt to retain soot or dust, die quickly. The influence there- 
fore, of a full variety of flowers and a rich vegetation, so necessary 
for the actual purification of the atmosphere, as well as to remove 
associations of impurity, and refresh the eye and soothe the mind 
can only be obtained at a distance from most towns. It occa- 
sionally happens that individuals incur expense to decorate craves 
in the town churchyards with flowers, and more would do so 
even in the churchyards near thoroughfares, but that they perish! 


Moral influence of seclusion from thronged places, and of deco- 
rative Improvements in JVational Cemeteries, and arrange- 
ments requisite for the satisfactory performance of Funeral 

\ 25. The images presented to the mind by the visible arrange- 
ments for sepulture, are inseparably associated with the ideas of 
death itself to the greater proportion of the population. Neglected 
or mismanaged burial-grounds superadd to the indefinite terrors 
of dissolution, the revolting image of festering heaps, disturbed 
and scattered bones, the prospect of a charnel-house, and its 
associations of desecration and insult. With burial-grounds that 
are undrained, for example, the associations expressed by the 
labouring classes on the occasion of burial there, are similar to 
those which would arise on plunging a sentient body into a 
14 watery grave." Where there is nothing visible to raise such 
painful associations, a feeling of dislike is manifested to the" com- 
mon" burial-grounds in crowded districts, or to their "dreariness," 
in the districts which are the least frequented. 

The Rev. H. H. Milman, the rector of St. Margaret's, West- 
minster, probably adverts to these associations when questioned 
before the Committee of the House of Commons with reference to 
the expediency of discontinuing burial in his own parish. 

In reference to the churchyard of St. Margaret's, is that full or not 1— It is 
very full. 

Can you with convenience inter there 1 — My own opinion js, that interment 
ought to be discontinued there for several reasons; not because I have ever 
heard of any noxious effect upon the health of the neighbourhood, but on 
account of its public situation; it is a thoroughfare, and in point of fact, it 
has been a cemetery so long, and it is bo crowded, that interment cannot take 
place without interfering with previous interments. 

Mr. Wordsworth, in a paper first published by Mr. Coleridge, 
has thus expressed the same sentiments, and the feelings, which 
it is submitted, are entitled to regard, in legislating upon this 
subject : — 

" In ancient times, as is well known, it was the custom to bury 
the dead beyond the walls of towns and cities, and among the 
Greeks and Romans they were frequently interred by the waysides. 

" I could here pause with pleasure, and invite the reader to 
indulge with me in contemplation of the advantages which must 
have attended such a practice. We might ruminate on fhe beauty 
which the monuments thus placed must have borrowed from the 
surrounding images of nature, from the trees, the wild flowers, 
from a stream running within sight or hearing, from the beaten 
road, stretching its weary length hard by. Many tender simili- 
tudes must these objects have presented to the mind of the 
traveller leaning upon one of the tombs, or reposing in the cool- 
ness of i'ts shades, whether he had halted from weariness, or in 
compliance with the invitation, ' Pause traveller,' so often found 
upon the monuments. And to its epitaph must have been sup- 


plied strong appeals to visible appearances or immediate impres- 
sions, lively and affecting analogies oflife as a journey — death aa 
a sleep overcoming the tired wayfarer — of misfortnne aa a storm 
that falls suddenly upon him— of beauty as a flower that passeth 
away, or of innocent pleasure as one that may be gathered— of 
virtue that standeth firm as a rock against the beating waves;— of 
hope undermined insensibly like the poplar by the side of the river 
that has fed it, or blasted in a moment like the pine tree by the 
stroke of lightning on the mountain top — of admonitions and 
heart-stirring remembrances, like a refreshing breeze that comes 
without warning, or the taste of the waters of an unexpected 
fountain. These and similar suggestions must have given for- 
merlv, to the language of the senseless stone, a voice enforced 
and endeared by the benignity of that nature with which it was 
in unison. 

" We in modern times have lost much of these advantages ; and 
they are but in a small degree counterbalanced to the inhabitants 
of large towns and cities, by the custom of depositing the dead 
within or contiguous to their places of worship, however splendid 
or imposing may be the appearance of those edifices, or however 
interesting or salutary may be the associations connected with 
them. Even were it not true, that tombs lose their monitory virtue 
when thus obtruded upon the notice of men occupied with the 
cares of the world, and too often sullied and defiled by those cares; 
yet still, when death is in our thoughts, nothing can make amends 
for the want of the soothing influences of nature, and for the ab- 
sence of those types of renovation and decay which the fields and 
woods offer to the notice of the serious and contemplative mind. 
To feel the force of this sentiment, let a man only compare, in 
imagination, the unsightly manner in which our monuments are 
crowded together in the busy, noisy, unclean, and almost grassless 
churchyard of a large town, with the still seclusion of a Turkish 
cemetery in some remote place, and yet further sanctified by the 
grove of cypress in which it is embosomed." 

§ 26. Careful visible arrangements, of an agreeable nature, raise 
corresponding mental images and associations which diminish 
the terrors incident to the aspect of death. Individuals who have 
purchased portions of decorated cemeteries for their own interment 
in the metropolis, make a practice of visiting them for the sake, 
doubtless, of those solemn but tranquil thoughts which the place 
inspires as personally connected with themselves. The establish- 
ment of a cemetery at Highgate was strongly opposed by the 
inhabitants, but when its decorations with flowers and shrubs and 
trees, and its quiet and seclusion were seen, applications were 
made for the purchase of keys, which conferred the privilege of 
walking in the cemetery at whatever time the purchaser pleased. 
If the chief private cemeteries in the suburbs of the metropolis 
were thrown open on a Sunday, they would on fine days be often 
thronged by a respectful population. Such private cemeteries 


as have been formed, though pronounced to be only improve- 
ments on the places of burial in this country, and far below what 
it would yet be practicable to accomplish, have indisputably 
been viewed with public satisfaction, and have created desires of 
further advances by the erection of national cemeteries. Abroad 
the national cemeteries have obtained the deepest hold on the 
affections of the population. I have been informed by an accom- 
plished traveller, who has carefully observed their effects, that 
cemeteries have been established near to all the large towns in 
the United States. To some of these cemeteries a horticultural 
garden is attached ; the garden walks being connected with the 
places of interment, which, though decorated, are kept apart. 
These cemeteries are places of public resort, and are there ob- 
served, as in other countries, to have a powerful effect in 
soothing the feelings of those who have departed friends, and in 
refining the feelings of all. At Constantinople, the place of pro- 
menade for Europeans is the cemetery at Pera, which is planted 
with cypress, and has a delightful position on the side of a hill 
overlooking the Golden Horn. The greatest public cemetery 
attached to that capital is at Scutari, which forms a beautiful 
grove, and disputes in attraction, as a place for readers, with the 
fountains and cloisters of the Mosques. 

§ 27. In Russia, almost every town of importance has its burial- 
place at a distance from the town, laid out by the architect of the 
government. It is always well planted with trees, and is frequently 
ornamented with good pieces of sculpture. Nearly every German 
town has its cemetery at a distance from the town, planted with 
trees and ornamented with public and private monuments. ' Most 
of the cemeteries have some choice works of art or public monu- 
ment, which alone would render them an object of attraction. For 
instance, at Saxe Weimar, the cemetery contains the tombs of 
Goethe and Schiller placed in the mausoleum of the ducal family. 
In Turkey, Russia, and Germany the poorer classes have the 
advantages of interment in the national cemeteries. In Russia it 
is the practice to hold festivals twice a-year over the graves of 
their friends. In several parts of Germany similar customs prevail. 
At Munich, the festival on All Saints' Day (November the 1st) is 
described as one of the most extraordinary spectacles that is to be 
seen in Europe.* The tombs are decorated in a most remarkable 

* The neglect of the cemeteries at Paris, and especially of those portions dedicated 
to the interment of the poorer classes, has been the subject of public complaint, and 
means are now being taken to redress them. A friend, who aided me with some 
inquiries in respect to them, states, — 

The English tourist in visiting Perc la Chaise is attracted by splendid monuments 
in the mid'st of cypress trees, and little gardens filled with flowers planted round a 
majority of the tombs; but the graves of the humbler classes lie beyond these, and 
to them the stranger is seldom conducted. The contrast is painful. When I last 
visited Perc la Chaise, on a fine day in November, and after a week of unusually 
fine weather for the season, I found the paths quite impracticable in the poorer 
quarter of the cemetery, and as I watched a man, in the usual blouse dress worn by 
the working class, picking his way through the mud to lead his little boy to pray 


manner with flowers, natural and artificial, branches of trees, 
canopies, pictures, sculptures, and every conceivable object that 
can be applied to ornament or decorate. The labour bestowed on 
some tombs requires so much time, that it is commenced two or 
three days beforehand, and protected while going on by a tem- 
porary roof. During the whole of the night preceding the 1st of 
November, the relations of the dead are occupied in completing 
the decoration of the tombs, and during the whole of All Saints' 
Day and the day following, being All Souls' Day, tho cemetery 
is visited by the entire population of Munich, including the king 
and queen, who go there on foot, and many strangers from dis- 
tant parts. Mr. Loudon states that, when he was there, it was 
estimated that 50,000 persons had walked round the cemetery 
in one day, the whole, with very few exceptions, dressed in 
black. On November the 3d, about mid-day, the more valuable 
decorations are removed, and the remainder left to decay from 
the effects of time and weather. 

§ 28. A review of the circumstances influencing the public feel- 
ing, and of the tendencies marked by the recent changes of practice 
in this country, and of the effects of the public institutions for in- 
terment amongst other civilized nations, enforce the conclusion 
that those arrangements to which the attention of the population is 
so earnestly directed, should be made with the greatest care, 
and that places of public burial demand the highest order of 
art in laying out the sites, and decorating them with trees and 
architectural structures of a solemn and elevating character. 
National arrangements with such objects, would be followed up 
and supported by the munificence of private individuals, and by 
various communities. It is observable in the metropolis, and in 
the larger towns, that the direction of private feeling in the choice 
of sepulture is less affected by locality or neighbourhood, than 
by classes of profession or occupation, or social communion when 
living, and that such feelings would tend to association in the grave 
and monumental decoration, A proposal has been in circulation 
for the purchase of a portion of one of the new cemeteries, for the 
erection of a mausoleum for persons of the naval and military 
professions— members of the United Service Clubs. At the public 
cemetery of Mayence are interred 150 veteran soldiers, officers 
and privates, natives of the town, who were buried in one spot, 
denoted by a monument on which each man's name and course of 
service is inscribed in gold letters, and the monument is sur- 
mounted by a statue of the general under whom they served 
At Berlin there is a cemetery connected with the Invaleiden W 
founded by Frederick the Great, in which many of the generals 
are buried with the private soldiers. The ground is well laid 
out, and ornamented with monuments, the latest of which are 
executed by Tieck, and other celebrated sculptors. This 

T r u h u K ,ave 1 of h l s mo,her ' ' ! cou!d but de P lor * ^e economy of an administration 
which had neglected to provide, at least, a dry gravel path for the humble *nd rin£ 
mourner. u P 10 '** 


cemetery forms the favourite walk of the old soldiers. The 
great moral force, and the consolation to the dying and the incen- 
tive to public spirit whilst living, derivable from the natural regu- 
lations of a public cemetery, is almost entirely lost in this country, 
except in the few cases where public monuments are provided in 
the cathedrals. In the metropolis it would be very difficult to find 
the graves of persons of minor fame who have advanced or adorned 
any branch of civil or military service, or have distinguished 
themselves in any art or science. Yet there are few occupa- 
tions which could not furnish examples for pleasurable con- 
templation to the living who are engaged in them, and claim 
honour from the public. The humblest class of artisans would 
feel consolation and honour in interment in the same cemetery 
with Brindley, with Crompton, or with Murdoch, the artisan who 
assisted and carried out the conceptions of Watt ; or with 
Emerson, or with Simpson, the hand-loom weaver, who became 
professor of mathematics at Woolwich ; or with Ferguson, the 
shepherd's son ; or with Dollond, the improver of telescopes, 
whose earliest years were spent at a loom in Spitalfields ; or with 
others who "have risen from the wheelbarrow" and done honour 
to the country, and individually gained public attention from 
the ranks of privates ; such for example as John Sykes, Nelson's 
cockswain, an old and faithful follower, who twice saved the life of 
his admiral by parrying the blows that were aimed at him, and at 
last actually interposed his own person to meet the blow of an 
enemy's sabre which he could not by any other means avert, 
and who survived the dangerous wound he received in this act 
of heroic attachment. The greater part of the means of honour 
and moral influence on the living generation derivable from the 
example of the meritorious dead of every class, is at present in 
the larger towns cast away in obscure graveyards and offensive 
charnels. The artisans who are now associated in communities 
which have from their beneficent objects a claim to public regard, 
might if they chose it have their spaces set apart for the members 
of their own occupation, and whilst they derive interest from 
association with each other, they would also derive consolation 
from accommodation within the same precincts as the more public 
and illustrious dead. 

§ 29. It is due to the memory of Sir Christopher Wren, to state 
that extra-mural or suburban cemeteries formed part of his plan 
for the rebuilding of London after the great fire. " I would 
wish," says he, "that all burials in churches might be disallowed, 
which is not only unwholesome, but the pavements can never be 
kept even, nor pews upright : and if the churchyard be close 
about the church, this is also inconvenient, because the ground 
being continually raised by the graves occasions in time a descent 
by steps into the church, which renders it damp, and the walls 
green, as appears evidently in all old churches. It will be in- 
quired where, then, shall be the burials ?— I answer, in cemeteries 



sealed in the outskirts of the town; and since it has become the 
fashion of the age to solemnize funerals by a train of coaches (even 
where the deceased are of moderate condition), though the ceme- 
teries should be half a mile or more distant from the church, the 
charge need be little or no more than usual ; the service may be 
first performed in the church : but for the poor and such as must 
be interred at the parish charge, a public hearse of two wheels and 
one horse may be kept at small expense, the usual bearers to lead 
the horse, and take out the corpse at the grave. A piece of ground 
of two acres, in the fields, will be purchased for much less than 
two roods amongst the buildings. This being enclosed with a 
strong brick wall, and having a walk round, and two cross walks, 
decently planted with yew trees, the four quarters may serve four 
parishes, where the dead need not be disturbed at the pleasure of 
the sexton, or piled four or five upon one another, or bones thrown 
out to gain room. In these places beautiful monuments may be 
erected; but yet the dimensions should be regulated by an architect, 
and not left to the fancy of every mason ; for thus the rich with 
large marble tombs would shoulder out the poor : when a pyramid, 
a good bust, or statue on a proper pedestal will take up little room 
in the quarters, and be propererthan figures lying on marble beds: 
the walls will contain escutcheons and memorials for the dead, and 
the real good air and walks for the living. It may be considered, 
further, that if the cemeteries be thus thrown into the fields, they 
will bound the excessive growth of the city with a graceful border 
which is now encircled with scavenger's dung-stalls."* 

§ 30. I might submit the concurrent opinions of several distin- 
guished clergymen, communicated in reference to the general view 
of the importance of a large change in the practice of town inter- 
ments, and the formation of suburban cemeteries, as being indeed 
conformable to the practice of the Jews and early Christians, and 
recognised in the words " There was a dead man carried out." 
It was the ancient practice, as is perhaps indicated in the term 
exsequies, to bury outside of the town.f To this practice it is 
clear that the earliest Christians conformed. It was their custom 
to assign to the martyrs the most conspicuous places, over which 
altars or monuments were erected, where the believers used to 
assemble for nightly worship, so that it may rather be said of 
them that their burial-places were their churches, than that their 
churches were their burial-places.;}; When the temples of the 
heathen gods were converted into Christian churches, the bones or 

* Vide Appendix for an exemplification of the excess of deaths and funerals and 
other losses incurred by setting aside Sir Christopher Wren's plan for the rebuilding 
of the city of London. 

t One of the twelve tables was in these words, " Hominem morluum in urbe ne 
aepelilo neve urito." Cicero, in one of his epistles, Epist. ad Div iv 12 in which 
he describes the assassination of his friend M Marcellus, Bt Athens, men'lions that 
he had been unable to obtain permission of the Athenians that the body should be 
buried in the city ; they said that such permission was inadmissible on reliain.n 
grounds, and that it never had been granted to any one. g>oua 

| Bingham's Christian Anliqnilies.'b. xxiii, ch. 1. § 2. 


relics of these illustrious persons, together with the altars, were 
removed and placed within the churches. The early practice of 
burial in the cemeteries near the earthly remains of those holy 
persons, being deemed a great privilege when those remains were 
removed, naturally led to the idea of its continuation, by the inter- 
ment of bodies in or about the first accustomed object of worship. 
Nevertheless, interment in the interior of the church was held to 
be an unusual piece of good fortune, and when the Emperor Con- 
stantine, who had constituted Christianity the religion of the state, 
had granted to him a grave within the porticos of the church, it was 
esteemed the most unheard-of distinction. The ancient Greeks 
and Romans thought that a corpse contaminated a sacred place, 
and this idea as to the corpse was retained by the early 
Christians. When some persons in Constantinople began to 
make an invasion upon the laws, under pretence that there was no 
express prohibition of burying in churches, Theodosius, by a new 
law, equally forbade them burying in cities and burying in 
churches; and this whether it was only the ashes or relics of any 
bodies kept above ground in urns or whole bodies laid in coffins; 
for the same reasons that the old laws had assigned, viz., that they 
might be examples and memorials of mortality and the condition 
of human nature to all passengers, and also that they might not de- 
file the habitations of the living but leave it pure and clean to them. 
St. Chrysostom, in one of his homilies upon the martyrs, says, 
" As before when the festival of the Maccabees was celebrated all 
the country came thronging into the city ; so now when the fes- 
tival of the martyrs who lie buried in the country is celebrated, it 
was fit the whole country should remove thither." In like manner, 
speaking of the festival of Drossis the martyr, he says, " Though 
they had spiritual entertainment in the city, yet their going out to 
the saints in the country afforded them both great profit and plea- 
sure." The Council of Tribur, in the time of Charlemagne, to 
prevent the abuse of burying within churches, decreed that no lay- 
man should thenceforth be buried within a church ; and that if 
in any church, graves were so numerous that they could not be 
concealed by a pavement, the place was to be converted into a 
cemetery, and the altar to be removed elsewhere and erected in 
a place where sacrifice could be religiously offered to God. 

Amongst the distinct clerical orders of the Primitive Church, 
Bingham (book iii. chap. 7) reckons the Psalmistce, the Copiatce, 
and the Parabolani. The Psalmistae, or the canonical singers, were 
appointed to retrieve and improve the psalmody of the church. 
The business of the Copiatae was to take care of funerals and pro- 
vide for the decent interment of the dead. St. Jerome styles them 
Fossarii, from digging of graves ; and in Justinian's Novels they 
are called Lecticarii, from carrying the corpse or bier at funerals. 
And St. Jerome, speaking of one that was to be interred, " The 
Clerici" says he, "whose office it was, wound up the body digged 
the earth," and so, according to custom, "made rdeay the grave. 


Constantine incorporated a body of men to the number of 11 00 in 
Constantinople, under the name of Copiatce, for the service in que* 
tion, and so iliey continued until the time of llonorius and Theo- 
dosius, junior, who reduced them to950; but Anastatius augmented 
them again to the first number, which Justinian confirmed by two 
novels, published for that purpose. Their office was to take the 
whole care of funerals upon themselves, and to see that all persons 
had a decent and honourable interment. Especially they were 
obliged to perform this last office to the poorer people without ex- 
acting any thing of their relations upon that account. The Parabo- 
lani were incorporated at Alexandria to the number of 500 or 600, 
who were deputed, to attend upon the sick, and take care of their 
bodies in time of weakness.* [Cod. Theod. leg. 43 : — Parabolani, 
qui ad curanda debilium corpora deputantur, quingentos esse ante 
prsecipimus; sed quia hos minus sufheere inpreesenti cognovimus, 
pro quingentis sex centos constitui pr3ecipimus,"&c] They were 
called Parabolani from their undertaking (ITapa/SoXov spyov) a most 
dangerous office in attending the sick. The foundation of a great 
city like Constantinople must have brought the magnitude of the 
service of the burial of the whole population distinctly under view, 
and have necessitated comprehensive and systematic arrange- 
ments of a corresponding extent, by the superintendence of supe- 
rior officers through the gradations of duty of a disciplined force, 
which, even with the Eastern redundance of service, could scarcely 
have failed to be efficient and economical as compared with 
numerous separated and isolated efforts. A great prototype was 
thus gained, and the well-considered gradations of duty and ser- 
vice of the great city was carried out as far as practicable in the 
small parish. In some churches where there was no such stand- 
ing office as the Copiatce or the Parabolani, the Penitents were 
obliged to take upon themselves the office and care of burying 
the dead; "and this byway of discipline and exercise of humility 
and charity which were so becoming their station." Bingham, 
book xviii. cap\ 2. The state of administrative information in 
these our times may surely be deplored, when any views can be 
entertained of making the small parish and the rude and bar- 
barous service (multiplied, at an enormous expense) of the really 
unsuperintended common gravedigger and sexton, the prototypes 
for this most important and difficult branch of public administra- 
tion of the greatest metropolis in the modern world. 

On a full consideration I think it will be apparent that the ex- 
clusion of the burial of corpses in churches or in churchvards 
and the adoption of burials in cemeteries, and the conspicuous 
interment there of all individuals whose lives and services have 
graced communities, will, in so far as it is carried out, be in prin- 
ciple a return to the primitive practice, restoring to the many the 
privilege, of which they are necessarily deprived by burials in 

* Vide Leviticus, chap. xiv. verse 33 to 48, for early sanitary measures of nnrifi 
cation. 1'urin- 


churches, of association in sepulture with the illustrious dead, and 
giving to these a wider sphere of attention and honour, and 
beneficent influence. 

§ 31. Where the circumstances described in respect to the 
Protestant population, have prevented compliance with the popu- 
lar desire for hymns or anthems to be sung, or sermons to be 
spoken at the burial at the parochial churches in London, inter- 
ment has been purchased for the express purpose of obtaining 
them at the trading burial-grounds. And yet it may be submitted 
that the desire is consistent with the earliest recognised practice 
for all classes, and that a system of national cemeteries would in 
proportion to the numbers interred in them, furnish valuable cases 
as examples for its beneficial exercise, and must, to a great extent, 
prevent the misapplication of the service to such cases as have 
apparently caused it to fall in public esteem. 

"The honour," says Hooker, "generally due unto all men 
maketh a decent interring of them to be convenient, even for 
very humanity's sake. And therefore so much as is mentioned 
in the burial of the widow's son, the carrying him forth upon a 
bier and accompanying him to the earth, hath been used even 
amongst infidels, all men accounting it a very extreme destitution 
not to have at least this honour clue to them." * * * * " Let 
any man of reasonable judgment examine whether it be more 
convenient for a company of men, as it were, in a dumb show to 
bring a corpse to a place of burial, there to leave it, covered with 
earth, and so end, or else to have the exsequies devoutly per- 
formed with solemn recitals of such lectures, psalms and prayers, 
as are purposely framed for the stirring up of men's minds ijito a 
careful consideration of their estate both here and hereafter. 

"In regard to the quality of men, it hath been judged fit to 
commend them unto the world at their death amongst the heathen 
in funeral orations; amongst the Jews in sacred poems; and why 
not in funeral sermons amongst Christians? Us it sufficeth that 
the known benefit hereof doth countervail millions of such incon- 
veniences as are therein surmised, although they were not sur- 
mised only, but found therein." * * * " The care no doubt 
of the living, both to live and die well, must needs be somewhat 
increased when they know that their departure shall not be folded 
up in silence, but the ears of many be made acquainted with it. 
The sound of these things do not so pass the ears of them that 
are most loose and dissolute in life, but it causeth them one time 
or other to wish, ' Oh that I might die the death of the righteous, 
and that my end might be like his.' Thus much peculiar good 
there doth grow at those times by speech concerning the dead; 
besides the benefit of public instruction common unto funeral with 
other sermons." — Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, b. v. ch. lxxv. 

" When thou hast wept awhile," says Jeremy Taylor, in his 
Holy Dying, " compose the body to burial ; which, that it be 
done gravely, decently, and charitably, we have the example of 


all nations to engage us, and of all ages of the world to warrant; 
so that it is against common honesty and public fame and reputa- 
tion not to do this office."— " The church, in her funerals of the 
dead, used to sing psalms and to give thanks for the redemption 
and delivery of the soul from the evil and dangers of mortality." 
— " Solemn and appointed mournings are good expressions of our 
dearness to the departed soul, and of his worth and our value of 
him, and it hath its praise in nature, and in manners, and in public 
customs; but the praise of it is not in the gospel, that is, it hath 
no direct and proper uses in religion; for if the dead did die in 
the Lord, then there is joy to him, and it is an ill expression of 
our affection and our charity to weep uncomfortably at a change 
that hath carried my friend to the state of a huge felicity.'" — 
"Something is to be given to custom, something to fame, to 
nature and to civilities, and to the honour of deceased Triends; 
for that man is esteemed to die miserable for whom no friend or 
relation sheds a tear, or pays a solemn sigh. I desire to die a 
dry death, but am not very desirous to have a dry funeral ; some 
flowers sprinkled on my grave would do well and comely; and 
a soft shower, to turn those flowers into a springing memory or 
a fair rehearsal, that I may not go forth of my doors, as my ser- 
vants carry the entrails of beasts." * * * * 

"Concerning doins honour to the dead the consideration is not 
long. Anciently the friends of the dead used to make their 
funeral oration, and what they spake of greater commendation 
was pardoned on the accounts of friendship; but when Chris- 
tianity seized on the possession of the world, this charge was de- 
volved on priests and bishops, and they first kept the custom of 
the world and adorned it with the piety of truth and of religion; 
but they also ordered it that it should not be cheap ; for they 
made funeral sermons only at the death of princes, or of such 
holy persons 'who shall judge the angels.' The custom de- 
scended, and in the channels mingled with the veins of earth, 
through which it passed; and now-a-days, men that die are com- 
mended at a price, and the measure of their legacy is the degree 
of their virtue. But these things ought not so to be; the reward 
of the greatest virtue ought not to be prostitute to the doles of 
common persons, but preserved like laurels and coronets to 
remark and encourage the noblest things. Persons of an ordi- 
nary life should neither be praised publicly, nor reproached in 
private; for it is an offence and charge of humanity to speak no 
evil of the dead, which, I suppose, is meant concerning things not 
public and evident; but then neither should our charity to°them 
teach us to tell a lie, or to make a great flame from a heap of 
rushes and mushrooms, and make orations crammed with the 
narrative of little observances, and acts of civil, necessary and 
eternal religion. But that which is most considerable is, that we 
should do something for the dead, something that is real and of 
proper advantage. That we perform their will, the laws oblige 


us, and will see to it ; but that we do all those parts of personal 
duty which our dead left unperformed, and to which the laws do 
not oblige us, is an act of great charity and perfect kindness." — 
" Besides this, let us right their causes and assert their honour:" 
* * "and certainly it is the noblest thing in the world to do an 
act of kindness to him whom we shall never see, but yet hath 
deserved it of us, and to whom we would do it if he were present; 
and unless we do so, our charity is mercenary, and our friendships 
are direct merchandise, and our gifts are brocage: but what we 
do to the dead, or to the living for their sakes, is gratitude, and 
virtue for virtue's sake, and the noblest portion of humanity." 

Exposition of the English Law in respect to Perpetuities in Public 
Burial- Grounds. 

[From the decision in the case of Gilbert v. Buzzard and Boyer, 2 Haggard's Re- 
ports of Cases argued and determined in the Consistory Court of London, con- 
taining the Judgments of the Right Hon. Lord Stowell.] 

§ 32. In what way the mortal remains are to be conveyed to the grave, and 
there deposited, I do not find any positive rule of law, or of religion, that pre- 
scribes. The authority under which the received practices exist, is to be found 
in our manners, rather than in our laws: they have their origin in natural sen- 
timents of public decency and private affection ; they are ratified by common 
usage and consent; and being attached to a subject of the gravest and most 
impressive nature, remain unaltered by private caprice and fancy, amidst all 
the giddy revolutions that are perpetually varying the modes and fashions that 
belong to the lighter circumstances of human life. That bodies should be 
carried in a state of naked exposure to the grave, would be a real offence to 
the living, as well as an apparent indignity to the dead. Some involucra, or 
coverings, have been deemed necessary in all civilized and Christian countries; 
but chests or trunks containing the bodies, descending along with them into 
the grave, and remaining there till their own decay, cannot plead either the 

same necessity, or the same general use. 

* * * * * 

The rule of law which says, that a man has a right to be buried in his own 
churchyard, is to be found, most certainly, in many of our authoritative text 
writers ; but it is not quite so easy to find the rule which gives him the right 
of buryino- a large chest or trunk in company with himself. That is no part 
of his original and absolute right, nor is it necessarily involved in it. that 
right strictly taken, is to be returned to his parent earth for dissolution, and 
to be' carried thither in a decent and inoffensive manner. When these pur- 
poses are answered, his rights are, perhaps, fully satisfied in the strict sense in 
which any claim, in the nature of an absolute right, can be deemed to extend. 

* * * * * 

It has been argued, that the ground once given to the body is appropriated 
to it for ever; it is literally in mortmain unalienably ; it is not only the domus 
ultima, but the domus coterna, of that tenant, who is never to be disturbed, be 
his condition what it may; the introduction of another body into that lodgment 
at any time, however distant, is an unwarrantable intrusion. If these posi- 
tions be true, it certainly follows, that the question of comparative duration 
sinks into utter insignificance. , . ._ . . 

In support of them, it seems to be assumed, that the tenant himself is mi- 
ne ishable ; for, surely, there can be no inextinguishable title, no perpetuity of 
Eos ession belono-in/to a subject which itself is perishable. But the feet IS, 
fhat « man" and " for ever" are terms quite incompatible in any state of his 
existence, dead or living, in this world. The time must come when ips<e 
periereruincer when the posthumous remains must mingle with, and compose 


a part of, that soil in which they have been deposited. Precious embalmenW 
and costly monuments may preserve i«>r a long tunc the remains ol those who 
have filled the more commanding stations of human life ; but the common lot 
of mankind furnishes no such means of conservation. With reference to 
them, the domus crtcrna is a mere flourish of rhetoric; the process of nature 
will speedily resolve them into an intimate mixture with their kindred dust; 
and their dust will help to furnish a place of repose for other occupants in 
succession. It is objected, that no precise time can be fixed at which the 
mortal remains, and the chest which contains them, shall undergo the com- 
plete process of dissolution, and it certainly cannot; being dependent upon 
circumstances that vary, upon difference of soils, and exposures of seasons and 
climates; but observation can ascertain them sufficiently for practical use. 
The experience of not many years is required to furnish a sufficient certainty 
for such a purpose. 

Founded on such facts and considerations, the legal doctrine certainly is, 
and has remained, unaffected ; that the common cemetery is not res unius 
cetatis, the property of one generation now departed, but is, likewise, the com- 
mon property of the living, and of generations yet unborn, and is subject only 
to temporary appropriations. There exists in the whole a right of succession, 
which can be lawfully obstructed only in a portion of it, by public authority, 
that of the ecclesiastical magistrate, who gives occasionally an exclusive title, 
in such portion, to the succession of some family, or to an individual, who has 
a fair claim to be favoured by such a distinction; and this, not without a just 
consideration of its expedience, and a due attention to the objections of those 
who oppose such an alienation from the common property. Even a bricked 
grave, granted without such an authority, is an aggression upon the common 
freehold interests, and carries the pretensions of the dead to an extent that 
violates the rights of the living. 

If this view of the matter be just, all contrivances that, whether intention- 
ally or not, prolong the time of dissolution beyond the period at which the 
common local understanding and usage have fixed it, is an act of injustice, 
unless compensated in some way or other. In country parishes, where the 
population is small, and the cemetery is large, it is a matter less worthy of 
consideration ; more ground can be spared, and less is wanted ; but, in popu- 
lous parishes, in large and crowded cities, the indulgence of an exclusive pos- 
session is unavoidably limited ; for, unless limited, evils of most formidable 
magnitude take place. Churchyards cannot be made commensurate to the 
demands of a large and increasing population ; the period of decay and disso- 
lution does not arrive fast enough in the accustomed mode of depositing bodies 
in the earth, to evacuate the ground for the use of succeeding claimants; new 
cemeteries must be purchased at an enormous expense to the parish, and to 
be used at an increased expense to families, and at the inconvenience of their 
being compelled to resort to very incommodious distances for attending on the 
office of interment 

In this very parish three additional burial-grounds are alleged to have been 
purchased, and to be now nearly filled. This is the progress of things in their 
ordinary course; and if to this is to be added the general introduction of a 
new mode of interment, which is to ensure to bodies a much longer possession, 
the evil will become intolerable, and a comparatively small portion of the dead 
will shoulder out the living and their posterity. The whole environs of this 
metropolis will be surrounded with a circumvallation of churchyards, perpe- 
tually increasing, by becoming themselves surcharged with bodies, if indeed 
land-owners can be found who will be willing to divert their "round from the 
beneficial uses of the living to the barren preservation of the dead, contrary 

to the humane maxim quoted by Tully from Plato's Republic: "Qua; terra 

fruges ferre, et, ut mater, cibos, suppeditare possir, cam ne quis nobis minuat 
neve vivus neve mortuus."